SEE turtles brings too rare to wear campaign to Asia to help end demand for tortoiseshell products

  • Default Size
  • Decrease Text
  • Increase Text

BEAVERTON, September 7, 2018  –  Tortoiseshell was plastic before plastic was invented and was used for more than a thousand years with a bustling international trade. However, this trade took a major toll on the hawksbill sea turtle, which is now listed as critically endangered by the IUCN with just an estimated 15,000 adult females, a drop of 90 percent over the last century. Though the legal international trade of these products ended in the 1990’s, the illegal trade and sale of these products still happens around Asia, representing an ongoing threat to this species.

Sea turtle shell bracelets for sale in Mirador Catarina, Nicaragua, ©Hal Brindley

The arrest of a Vietnamese man who had an estimated 7,000 hawksbills in Vietnam in 2014 highlights the continued need to address this trade, and several other smaller seizures have happened in recent years in the Philippines and Indonesia. In addition, a recent report by WildAid detailed nine cases of hawksbills being caught attempting to be smuggled from Vietnam into China and several cases of smuggling from Hong Kong into China. The retail sale of these products has been documented recently in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea and their sale is still legal in Japan, though importing new shells is illegal.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle shell scales (scutes) waiting to be used by artisans in Managua to produce sea turtle shell jewelry, Nicaragua © Hal Brindley

Too Rare To Wear is a coalition launched in 2016 with the aim of working with the tourism industry to end the demand for tortoiseshell products. The coalition includes more than 80 tour operators, conservation organizations, and media outlets and has reached more than 10 million people. The initial focus of the campaign was Latin America and the Caribbean, where the campaign released a report detailing more than 10,000 pieces of tortoiseshell for sale in seven countries. Too Rare To Wear is a program of the non-profit organization SEE Turtles, based in the United States. “Too Rare To Wear is excited to partner with tour operators in Asia to help bring hawskbills back from the edge of extinction and bring an end to the sale of tortoiseshell products in the region,” says Brad Nahill, president of SEE Turtles.

Sea turtle shell bracelet for sale in Managua, Nicaragua, ©Hal Brindley

Too Rare To Wear is now expanding to Asia and is reaching out to tour operators, conservation organizations, and the dive industry to educate travelers on how to avoid these products when traveling. We have created a simple guide and video on how to recognize tortoiseshell, graphics about the trade, and other resources available for use by partners.


To learn more or join the Too Rare To Wear campaign at no cost, please contact Brad Nahill, SEE Turtles president at [email protected]. More information can be found at