Asia-Pacific households willing to pay over US $45 billion a year to save sea turtles from extinction

Posted on 09 September 2021
WWF- Australia staff holding a baby turtle.
© WWF-Australia Christine Hof
9 September 2021 - A new WWF-commissioned study estimates that households in Asia-Pacific could pay on average US$80 per year which when extrapolated across almost 600 million households of a similar income bracket adds up to US$45.7 billion worth of potential funding a year to help maintain healthy populations and habitats of sea turtles in the wild. 

The report “Money Talks: The Value of Conserving Marine Turtles in Asia-Pacific” presents a powerful economic rationale for policy makers to explore sustainable financing mechanisms and invest in turtle conservation actions that will enhance economic and human welfare. But this window of opportunity is quickly closing - globally, six out of seven species of sea turtles are already threatened with extinction. 

Even in the Coral Triangle, the centre of the world’s marine biodiversity, sea turtle populations are rapidly declining. Faced with multiple threats, including climate change, pollution and habitat destruction, sea turtles are also being overharvested for their eggs, meat and shells to make jewellery, ornaments or trinkets - which are mostly traded in Asia-Pacific. 

The contrast is stark: the value of protecting turtles is at least 50,000 times greater than that of harvesting them, which is estimated at US$800,000 annually. The total figure of their economic value would be much higher when considering the contribution of healthy turtle populations to other ecosystem services, such as tourism, recreation and indigenous cultures, which were not measured in this study.

“If governments do nothing, turtle extinction could result in up to US $39 billion per year in economic welfare losses. On the other hand, taking action to protect sea turtles would deliver improvements in human welfare valued at US $54 billion per year,” said environmental economist and lead author of the report, Dr. Luke Brander,  warning of the consequences of business-as-usual and continued policy inaction.

Over 7,700 households were surveyed as part of the global study, with particular focus in China, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Respondents believe that governments bear most responsibility for conserving marine turtles, and preferred popular policy actions including the protection of critical turtle habitats, strengthening legislation and the employment of turtle rangers. 

“If we can capture even a tiny proportion of the willingness-to-pay expressed by people in the Asia-Pacific region to conserve marine turtles, and channel some of that value back to coastal communities for the protection of turtles, we may be able to reverse their trajectory towards extinction,” said WWF Marine Species Programme Manager Christine Madden Hof.

One of the key recommendations made in the report is that governments should develop initiatives that ensure coastal communities earn more from protecting sea turtles than from harvesting them.

“There is an enormous economic opportunity to leverage public interest in conserving marine turtles for the benefit of both coastal communities and our oceans. This report provides the know-how for decision makers to act before it’s too late for sea turtles in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Hof.  
WWF- Australia staff holding a baby turtle.
© WWF-Australia Christine Hof Enlarge
Sea Turtle
© © _ Inaki Relanzon _ WWF Enlarge
Sea Turtle comes to shore.
© WWF-Australia Veronica Joseph Enlarge