On Thursday, June 22, 2017, the carcass of a female hawksbill sea turtle, measuring three (3) feet, was discovered on Vigie Beach at approximately 8:00am. Based on reports received, the turtle was seen floating in the adjacent water at around 6:15am. Barely alive, the turtle was brought onto shore by persons nearby who reported that the turtle appeared to have been injured but eventually died.
Upon inspection by personnel of the Department of Fisheries, it appears that she died as a result of the injuries sustained from chop marks on her back and front flippers. Evidence shows that the sea turtle crawled onto the beach to lay and was in the process of laying when attacked and severely injured.
Over the years the Department of Fisheries has received a number of reports of people interfering and slaughtering nesting female sea turtles on beaches. For2017, the Department has received 10 reports related to the slaughter of sea turtles at several beaches on the island; namely Grande Anse, Vigie and Sandy beach and Vigie beach.
It is prohibited under the Fisheries Act in Saint Lucia to interfere with nesting sea turtles, their nests or eggs. The hawksbill turtle, known locally as “cawette”, is a critically endangered species. The current rate of survival of sea turtle hatchlings reaching adulthood is 1 in 1000 hatchlings, and with each female laying between 60-120 eggs. These statistics explain why for the last 30 years, many countries have implemented numerous management measures to conserve sea turtle populations, especially the protection of nesting females.
In Saint Lucia, sea turtles typically come to the beach to nest from March to November every year. The Department has received reports of four (4) sea turtle nests on Vigie Beach since nesting season began on March 1. To date, the Department of Fisheries have received a total of eleven (11) reports of sea turtle activities on the island’s beaches, with four (4) of these reports being related to slaughtered sea turtles and turtle eggs being stolen from nests.
It is illegal, under the Fisheries Act Cap 7.15 of the Revised Laws of Saint Lucia 2013, to tamper with any sea turtle that is laying or in the process of laying, the eggs or hatchlings of sea turtles. While there are many threats to sea turtles, including lighting from nearby/beachfront buildings/properties, dogs, birds, rats; however, the most significant threat is poaching by humans.
The Department of Fisheries wishes to remind the general public, that any interference with nesting sea turtles, hatchlings or their eggs is prohibited. Anyone caught interfering with nesting sea turtles or in possession of sea turtle meat or eggs is liable to a maximum of fine EC$5000.00 per offence.
As such, the Department solicits the co-operation of the general public to refrain from such illegal activities and report any such matter to the nearest police station or call the Department at 468-4143 or 468-4135,. Anyone who encounters a dead, ill or injured sea turtle is encouraged to call the Department of Fisheries.