March 10th, 2014 -- On Thursday February 13th, 2014 the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) responding to reliable information received journeyed to the village of St. Paul’s where two undersized green sea turtles were being held awaiting rendering on the property of a villager. The Representatives from the DMR with the assistance of officers from the St. Paul’s Police Station confiscated the sea turtles. The individual responsible has been charged. Violating the Fisheries Regulations regarding sea turtles in St. Kitts and Nevis carries a fine of up $5,000EC per offense.
The animals, which had been held since earlier in the week for around 3 days, underwent complete health assessments conducted by representatives from the DMR and the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN). The turtles weighed 80 and 61 pounds (the minimum legal weight for a green sea turtle is 180 pounds). They were then fitted with tags on both flippers and passive integrated transponder tags (PIT) and released. These tags will be with the turtle for life and if captured or discovered on another island by another sea turtle project, will be reported back to the SKSTMN.
Green sea turtles are classified globally as Endangered because scientists have determined that their populations have been reduced by more than 50% over the last century. Only 1 in 1,000 green sea turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood, and the females that survive will not return to nest on our shores until they are 20 to 40 years of age.
Sea turtles are attracting more and more tourists to our island. Protecting them now will contribute to our eco-tourism and economic development. Countries throughout the Caribbean region are finding that sea turtles are worth a great deal more money alive, than dead. In addition, green sea turtles feed on seagrass and algae – they are “keystone species” in the marine environment, carefully maintaining grass beds, which serve to protect our coastlines from erosion and provide nursery habitat for many fish and invertebrates.
Sea turtles help to maintain a healthy balance in the marine ecosystem – and a healthy marine ecosystem provides an array of opportunities for prospective tourist-based businesses, including fishing, diving, and snorkeling. In contrast, if our natural resources are left unprotected or over-utilized, the marine ecosystem will collapse, leaving little to no opportunity for tourism, employment, or subsistence fishing.
We urge all citizens to assist in efforts to conserve and protect sea turtles so that they will be around for generations to come. Open season closed on February 28th for the year (1 October-February 28). We are currently at the start of the leatherback-nesting season with our first nest laid on 23 February 2014.
For more information on sea turtles and regulations regarding them in St. Kitts and Nevis please visit www.stkittsturtles.org. Please report any sea turtle sightings, nesting event, etc. to the Department of Marine Resources (869) 465-8045 or the Sea Turtle Hotline at 764-6664.
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