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Eddie Peng journeys to save sea turtles in new documentary

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-10-29 10:10

WildAid, Chinese streaming service Youku, and the China Sea Turtle Conservation Alliance announced a three-part documentary that calls for immediate action to save wild sea turtles from extinction in Shanghai on Monday.

In Beyond the Sea and Shore, actor and WildAid ambassador Eddie Peng embarks on an epic adventure to explore the many threats sea turtles face around the world. Along the way, he meets environmental warriors on the front lines of a battle to save sea turtles.

Around the world, sea turtles are revered for their beauty and celebrated as one of Earth's oldest creatures. But, as the documentary illustrates, it's this beauty as well as plastic pollution, bycatch and coastal development that threatens their very existence.

As a dedicated environmental advocate, Peng notes "This was my chance to learn about the complex issues sea turtles face and be a voice for these incredible animals. In making this film I met so many heroes working to save them. Their work is truly remarkable. I hope I can inspire the audience to take action, starting with simple things such as never buying sea turtle products, reducing our use of disposable plastics, and choosing certified sustainable sea food."

In the film, Peng visits a wildlife hospital in Ecuador's Machalilla National Park – a WildAid partner and the only facility of its kind. There, he sees the devastating effects of fishing gear and plastic and learns just how vulnerable sea turtles are as newborns.

As one of oldest species in the ocean, sea turtles are not only seeing huge declines in recent decades from habitat loss, bycatch, and pollution, but also from illegal trade in their eggs, meat, and shells. Parts of the shell and whole bodies of critically endangered hawksbill turtles are used as raw materials for crafts and souvenirs, such as combs, glasses frames and hand fans. Meat from green and leatherback turtles and eggs from loggerhead and olive ridley turtles are widely consumed as important sources of protein and nutrition by coastal fishing communities in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Of the seven species of sea turtles, five are found in Chinese waters. The primary active nesting sites in China are now in the remote Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The Huidong Sea Turtle Nature Reserve in Guangdong had around 500 nesting turtles 70 years ago but by 2012 only counted 2 nesting turtles.

Meanwhile, illegal products made from sea turtle shells are easily found for sale throughout Asia. In the last five years, Chinese authorities have intercepted 38 smuggling cases involving sea turtle products. Most commonly seen items are made from hawksbill turtles, with only an estimated 23,000 remaining globally.

In 2018, China issued a sea turtle conservation action plan to help restore the country's dwindling sea turtle population. Along with restoring habitat and combating illegal trade, a key feature of this plan is to build public awareness and initiative to protect sea turtles.

"Partnering with WildAid on this film shows the government's commitment to marine conservation, and we're honored to be partnering with them," said WildAid China Chief Representative Steve Blake. "But also key to the film reaching its objectives is the participation of Eddie Peng. He is a role model to his fans all over Asia and has long used his voice to raise awareness on environmental issues. We invited Eddie to help bring the plight of sea turtles and ocean health from the periphery to a front and center issue in the public discourse. This is what drives change, and this film has the star power, media support, and enticing story to make that happen. "

Between the Sea and Shore was produced and directed by Andrew Wegst. It is a coproduction of WildAid, Youku and the China Sea Turtle Conservation Alliance, and will be released on first week of December 2019.

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