Turtle Killer Sought by Police

img: The carcass of the slaughtered turtle. [Photo: Saint Lucia National Trust]

Offender Faces $5,000 Court Fine

INVESTIGATIONS into the killing of a hawksbill turtle a week ago are still ongoing says the National Trust, which is working with the Department of Fisheries, the Marine Police Unit and the Crime Scene Investigation Unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, in the slaughter.

Craig Henry, Programme Officer for the Saint Lucia National Trust yesterday reiterated the call for poachers to stop the practice of killing turtles that come onto the island’s beaches to nest.

Last Tuesday’s incident came during the closed season for turtle hunting. It was reported by beach security staff to the National Trust’s sea turtle monitoring team which regularly patrols the beaches of Pointe Sable Environmental Protection Area along the south-east coast.

“The protection of critically endangered sea turtles is a high priority within the Pointe Sable Environmental Protection Area. For the last two years we’ve been working with partners in other government agencies, in the Police Force, the private sector and the community to ensure that sea turtles can nest safely on our shores,” Henry said.

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“With the closed season for turtles extending from January 1 to September 30, 2016, we are right in the middle of the most important time for sea turtle nesting,” he explained.

Three types of marine turtles make their way to the beaches of the island to hatch, namely the Hawksbill turtle, Green turtle and Leatherback turtle. While the beaches on the north eastern side of the island are their favourite nesting grounds, especially Grand Anse Beach, there have been reports, according to Henry, of turtles nesting on beaches not known to be favoured by them, like Vigie Beach in the north and the one where the Marine Police have their headquarters in the south of the island.

Under the regulations in force, it is illegal to catch or slaughter turtles, including nesting turtles, or to be in possession of their meat, eggs or other products. A person who violates the Fisheries Regulations can be fined an amount of $5,000 for each offence.

“Fisheries Regulations exist in order to protect our natural resources for the long term,” explained Thomas Nelson, Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer. “As a nation we depend heavily on marine resources and only through full compliance with closed seasons, licensing requirements, and marine protected area regulations can we ensure sustainable use and the future livelihoods upon which our communities depend.”

Head of the sea turtle monitoring team, Vincent ‘Jeg’ Clarke, confirmed that tracks showed the female turtle was in the process of laying her eggs when the perpetrators dragged her to an isolated area to carry out the slaughter. He also confirmed that the poachers made off with the culled meat and mature eggs, leaving behind more than a hundred undeveloped eggs, a carcass and other evidence.

Saint Lucia National Trust condemned this act and encouraged anyone with information which could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators to contact the local police in Vieux Fort. The National Trust is also appealing to the general public to support conservation efforts to protect sea turtles island-wide.

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