updated 7/30/2008 3:36:33 PM ET 2008-07-30T19:36:33

Police in southern Mexico say they have seized 9,000 protected sea turtle eggs and arrested seven men suspected of intending to sell them.

Police in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero said in a statement Tuesday that the eggs were discovered at a highway checkpoint in a truck driven by the suspects.

Sea turtles are a protected species in Mexico, but their eggs have long been considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac by some consumers.

The suspects face prison terms of up to nine years if convicted of possessing the eggs.

Black marketSeveral kinds of sea turtle lay their eggs on the Mexican coast. Authorities did not specify the species, but it appeared likely they were from Olive Ridley turtles.

Last week, 59 Olive Ridley turtles apparently killed in fishing nets washed up on beaches in and around the resort of Acapulco.

It was unclear which fishing boats were involved.

Many of the dead turtles were found by personnel at a turtle-protection area.

The sea turtles were declared a protected species in 1990. Fishermen are required to include turtle escape devices in their nets.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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