To eat or not to eat an endangered species: Views of local residents and physicians on the safety of sea turtle consumption in northwestern Mexico

Jesse Senko, Wallace J. Nichols, James Perran Ross, Adam S. Willcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sea turtles have historically been an important food resource for many coastal inhabitants of Mexico. Today, the consumption of sea turtle meat and eggs continues in northwestern Mexico despite well-documented legal protection and market conditions providing easier access to other more reliable protein sources. Although there is growing evidence that consuming sea turtles may be harmful to human health due to biotoxins, environmental contaminants, viruses, parasites, and bacteria, many at-risk individuals, trusted information sources, and risk communicators may be unaware of this information. Therefore, we interviewed 134 residents and 37 physicians in a region with high rates of sea turtle consumption to: (1) examine their knowledge and perceptions concerning these risks, as a function of sex, age, occupation, education and location; (2) document the occurrence of illness resulting from consumption; and (3) identify information needs for effective risk communication. We found that 32% of physicians reported having treated patients who were sickened from sea turtle consumption. Although physicians believed sea turtles were an unhealthy food source, they were largely unaware of specific health hazards found in regional sea turtles, regardless of location. By contrast, residents believed that sea turtles were a healthy food source, regardless of sex, age, occupation, and education, and they were largely unaware of specific health hazards found in regional sea turtles, regardless of age, occupation, and education. Although most residents indicated that they would cease consumption if their physician told them it was unhealthy, women were significantly more likely to do so than men. These results suggest that residents may lack the necessary knowledge to make informed dietary decisions and physicians do not have enough accurate information to effectively communicate risks with their patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)584-595
Number of pages12
JournalEcoHealth
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Endangered Species
Turtles
Mexico
endangered species
turtle
safety
Physicians
Safety
Occupations
occupation
education
Education
Food
food
Health
consumption
sea
market conditions
meat
Meat

Keywords

  • bacteria
  • Baja California
  • consumption
  • contaminants
  • human health
  • knowledge
  • Mexico
  • parasites
  • risk communication
  • risk perceptions
  • sea turtles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

Cite this

To eat or not to eat an endangered species : Views of local residents and physicians on the safety of sea turtle consumption in northwestern Mexico. / Senko, Jesse; Nichols, Wallace J.; Ross, James Perran; Willcox, Adam S.

In: EcoHealth, Vol. 6, No. 4, 01.12.2009, p. 584-595.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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