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Title: Methods of, and motives for, laundering a wildlife commodity beyond captive farming-based systems : the harvest of olive ridley sea turtle eggs
Author: Pheasey, Helen
ISNI:       0000 0004 9357 2218
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2020
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Wildlife is an important source of nutrition and income for rural communities, yet illegal wildlife trade can threaten biodiversity and economic development. Where wildlife is traded legally, laundering of illicit goods can still occur, yet opportunities to study this process are rare. Despite operating for over 30 years the legal extraction and commercialisation of olive ridley sea turtle eggs from Ostional, Costa Rica is shrouded in controversy. This is due to the high level of illegal egg collection that takes place on other beaches, with critics arguing the legal trade is stimulating illegal extraction and enabling illicit egg sales. This research aimed to identify whether the Ostional harvesting programme was being used to launder illegally collected eggs and whether local vendors were adhering to the traceability regulations in place for this trade. The illegal extraction of turtle eggs in the Caribbean was driven by motivations that were not exclusively livelihoods based. Through semi-structured interviews, it was established that dependency on narcotics by people marginalised from society was the main driver of illegal extraction. This was coupled with under-resourced law enforcement in relation to wildlife crime. However, substance misuse appears to be driven by poverty, which needs to be addressed if illegal egg extraction is to be reduced. Market surveys found a high proportion of vendors sold eggs outside legal packaging, and eggs prepared for consumption generated a greater revenue than fresh, certified eggs. A value chain analysis of the legal trade highlighted vulnerabilities and inequalities in revenue generated from Ostional eggs between different actors in the chain. A comparison of trade routes identified several locations where the legal and illegal trades geographically overlap, and where evidence of laundering would be expected. However, almost all eggs in the trade were olive ridley, and illegal sales made no reference to the commercialisation of eggs from Ostional. While an illegal trade in fully protected species is clearly flourishing, it appears to be operating independently of the Ostional egg project. This research offers a rare opportunity to examine a long standing wildlife trade and its impact beyond the scope of the livelihoods of the source community. Extracting natural resources is often seen as detrimental, however this research has shown how the use of a natural resource can assist in alleviating poverty and improve local livelihoods. In addition, it informs policy regarding wildlife laundering. Despite both the legal and illegal trades appearing to be driven by the supply of eggs, and the benefits of rule-breaking outweighing the costs, no evidence of laundering was found. The fact (1) there are relatively few actors entirely dependent on Ostional eggs; and (2) that the Atlantic turtle populations appear to be recovering, suggest that the legal trade in turtle eggs is having a negligible impact on the other turtle species that nest in Costa Rica.
Supervisor: Roberts, David ; Griffiths, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available