Turtle egg consumption poses risks to both human health and marine ecosystem
By Rusli Andar & Creusa Hitipeuw
Jakarta (08/03)-The reasons that people consume sea turtle eggs are somewhat complex. This practice has linked to the popular beliefs saying that turtle eggs are nutritious and possess certain qualities related to fertility and as a natural aphrodisiac giving excessive masculinity. However there no scientific evidence whatsoever to support those conceptions. In fact, a journal in Environmental health Perspective published in 2009 titled “Dangerous Delicacy’-Contaminated Sea Turtle Eggs Pose A Potential Health Threat” event contradicts the idea that sea turtle eggs are beneficial for human health.
The journals reported the concentrations of Persistent Organic Polutants (POP) and heavy metals in green turtle (Chelonia mydas) egss from markets in Peninsular Malaysia pose considerable risks to human health. Cancer, hepatic disease, neurologic and endocrine disorders are potential diseases caused by those hazardous compounds.
Furthermore, the concentrations of coplanar PCBs(Polychlorinated biphenyl) represented 300 times the ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) values set by the World Health Organization. PCB is an organic pollutant banned by United States Congress in 1979 due to its high level of toxicity which was closely associated with cancer disease and congenital abnormalities.
In addition to that, in the last decade, turtle eggs were also reported that they contain high amount of cholesterol. A single turtle egg can contain the same amount of fat and cholesterol as 20 chicken eggs. High cholesterol level increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Those facts may cause surprise you and make you reconsider consuming turtle eggs. Wait a second, this following fact might even surprise you more. There are still other negative impacts if turtle eggs continue to be dug out for consumption. The exploitation of turtle eggs has contributed the decreasing population of turtle which will force this marine species in the brink of extinction.
This prediction may not be too much since turtle takes a long time to reach its sexual maturity. One individual needs at least 30 years to mature into a reproductive adult, laying 60-130 eggs. Not all turtle eggs survive to become baby turtles and grow to adult turtles. Among all turtle species, Hawksbill Turtle is the most productive. Ironically, this species is classified as critically endangered.
A female hawksbill turtle needs 45 minutes to dig a large hole with her hind flippers before laying their eggs. It takes 20-30 minutes to put the eggs. It takes 1.5 hours for a turtle to nest, laying not more than 200 eggs, though its size is considered smaller than other turtle eggs. It can reach maximum age of 100 year and the female turtle only breeds when she reaches 10-20 years. Each female will repeat this process 20-30 years, although there may be intervals between breading of 2-5 years. That relatively few offspring of turtles raising concerns for the survival of the species. The reproductivity of sea turtles are not equal to the rapid exploitation of turtle eggs.
The decreasing population of sea turtle can severely affect the balance of marine ecosystem since they are major predators in the marine food chain. This marine species also plays an important role ini maintaining the productivity of sea grass which supports nutrition for all various fish species.
All turtle species is classified as threatened species and listed in the red list of IUCN. Some turtles nested in Indonesian ocean which are critically endangered are green turtles, hawksbill turtles, olive ridley turtles, and leatherback turtles. This condition should have alarmed us all, that there is an urgent need to protect turtles from extinction. One of the efforts is by not consuming turtle meat and eggs.
Regarding the fact that turtle eggs are hazardous to our health and how the exploitation of turtle eggs can contribute to the balance of marine ecosystem, then there is no reason to still consume turtle eggs.