Sea tur­tle slaugh­ter in Vieux Fort un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by law en­force­ment agen­cies

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

The Saint Lucia Na­tional Trust is work­ing to­gether with the De­part­ment of Fish­eries, the Ma­rine Po­lice Unit and the Crime Scene In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Po­lice Force in re­sponse to the slaugh­ter of a nest­ing hawks­bill sea tur­tle.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred early Tues­day morn­ing and comes 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,” com­mented Mr. Craig Henry, Pro­gramme Of­fi­cer for the Saint Lucia Na­tional Trust.

“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.

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 $5,000 for each of­fence.

“Fish­eries Reg­u­la­tions ex­ist in or­der to pro­tect our nat­u­ral re­sources for the long term,” ex­plained Mr. 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, Mr. 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.

Mean­while Co­conut Bay Beach Re­sort & Spa, the ho­tel bor­der­ing the beach where the tur­tle was killed, says it con­demns in the strong­est man­ner the slaugh­ter of the sea tur­tle. The re­sort’s man­age­ment and staff are deeply sad­dened at this de­vel­op­ment and call upon per­pe­tra­tors to de­sist from such acts of sav­agery which are detri­men­tal to our im­age as a des­ti­na­tion and the sus­tain­abil­ity of the ma­rine tur­tle fish­eries. The re­sort will be in­creas­ing its mon­i­tor­ing and sur­veil­lance with im­me­di­ate ef­fect in or­der to min­imise the re­cur­rence of sim­i­lar in­ci­dents in the fu­ture.

The Saint Lucia Na­tional Trust has also con­demned this act and en­cour­ages 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 is­land­wide. For more in­for­ma­tion on these con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tives please con­tact the Na­tional Trust at 454-5014 or the De­part­ment of Fish­eries at 468-4741. Con­tact can also be made via email: southof­fi­cer@slu­na­trust.org.

The crime scene where the car­cass of a slaugh­tered nest­ing hawks­bill sea tur­tle was dis­cov­ered.

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