Tourists face health risks from contact with captive sea turtles

February 5, 2013

Tourists coming into contact with sea turtles at holiday attractions face a risk of health problems, according to research published today by JRSM Short Reports. Encountering free-living sea turtles in nature is quite safe, but contact with wild-caught and captive-housed sea turtles, typically through handling turtles in confined pools or through consuming turtle products, carries the risk of exposure to toxic contaminants and to zoonotic (animal to human) pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Symptoms, which may take some time to emerge, can resemble gastrointestinal disorders or flu but people more severely affected can suffer septicaemia, pneumonia, meningitis and acute renal failure.

The review included a case study of the Cayman Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman, which between 2007 and 2011 attracted approximately 1.2 million visitors. CTF sells farmed turtle meat to the public and local restaurants. One of the researchers, Clifford Warwick of the Emergent Disease Foundation, said: "The subsequent distribution of visitors exposed to turtle farm conditions may also involve opportunities for further dissemination of contaminants into established tourist hubs including and airline carriers."

Warwick added that awareness of potential threats may be modest among health-care professionals and low among the public. "To prevent and control the spreading of sea turtle-related disease, greater awareness is needed among health-care professionals regarding potential pathogens and toxic contaminants from sea turtles, as well as key signs and symptoms of typical illnesses."

The study was funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Warwick said: "Significantly, the captive farming of turtles arguably increases the threat to health, in particular from bacteria, due to the practice of housing many turtles in a relatively confined space and under intensive conditions."

Warwick concluded: "People should avoid food derived from and perhaps also other relatively long-lived species regardless of their role in the food chain as all these animals potentially have more time in which to accumulate hazardous organisms and toxins and present an increased risk of animal-linked human pathology."

Explore further: Sea turtles make comeback on Texas coast

Related Stories

Oldest sea turtle fossil unveiled in Mexico

March 6, 2009

Paleontologists on Thursday unveiled the oldest fossil remains of a sea turtle that lived 72 million years ago in northern Mexico, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said.

Mexico releases 100,000 endangered sea turtles

January 31, 2013

A Mexican conservation group released more than 100,000 sea turtles into the ocean last year, in an effort to save a species threatened by egg poachers and fishing nets.

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2013
But farmed salmon is as good as wild, right?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.