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Waterkeepers Bahamas, Save The Bays Applaud Quick Official Action Saving 100-lb Loggerhead Turtle

100-lb Loggerhead Turtle Saved –Loggerhead turtle found in the possession of a Grand Bahamian man was released back into the ocean due to the quick thinking action of local officials. (Photo by Freeport News.)
100-lb Loggerhead Turtle Saved –Loggerhead turtle found in the possession of a Grand Bahamian man was released back into the ocean due to the quick thinking action of local officials. (Photo by Freeport News.)

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays today joined forces to praise officers and officials in Grand Bahama for quick thinking and action, arresting and charging a man with illegal possession of a protected loggerhead turtle and releasing the turtle back into the ocean. It was the first arrest for a marine animal violation in Grand Bahama in 12 years and the first in the nation since The Bahamas passed legislation banning the capture or sale of sea turtles in 2009.

“This was an example of the system working exactly as it should,” said Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville. “According to published reports that we followed with great appreciation, a police officer on routine patrol saw the truck a quarter of a mile from the beach and spotted the huge turtle in the back. Knowing that turtles were protected under the law that bans capture, sale and slaughter, the officer contacted the Assistant Superintendent of Fisheries with the Ministry of Marine Resources in Grand Bahama, Clement Campbell. Mr. Campbell immediately responded and questioned the young man who reportedly told him he found the turtle by the side of the road, an explanation which Mr. Campbell found questionable. Even if it were true, it would still be a violation of the law which is very clear about possession or sale of turtles or any part of a turtle, including eggs. If the gentleman found the turtle by the side of the road, the honourable thing to do would have been to report it, document it with his phone as he got help to lift it and get it back to the sea as quickly and safely as he could.”

“That gentleman could have been a hero instead of facing charges and another court appearance.”
The Freeport News broke the story about the incident which occurred around 5:30 pm Saturday, August 20 near Bahama Beach, West End, an area favoured for its rich fishing grounds. Fishermen in Grand Bahama have complained that turtles are eating crawfish and juvenile conch, but says Darville, who heads the popular environmental group and is a monitor for Waterkeepers Bahamas, those fishermen who complain are not crediting turtles for the critical role they play in nurturing conch, crawfish and fish populations.

“Nearly every part of the turtle contributes to the health of the sea,” said Darville. “The shell has been referred to as the garden of the sea. Up to 100 species of animal and plant life have been found on a turtle’s back. And because turtles are bottom feeders, they stir up and aerate the sand providing nutritional benefits. Perhaps most importantly, a turtle is not just garden, but gardener, eating sea grass and keeping it trimmed, creating a nursery for conch, fish and crawfish.”

Darville and Grand Bahama Waterkeeper Executive Director Rashema Ingraham lauded the Bahamas National Trust’s approval of the official action, Ingraham saying it represented a rallying point for partner organisations dedicated to preserving the environment.

“If we gave out awards, my vote would be for Clement Campbell and those on his team who rushed to the scene, carried out their responsibilities with conviction, and performed the rescue, upholding Regulation 29 (a) of Chapter 244, dealing with the possession of a marine mammal without proper permission,” said Ingraham. “Thanks to them, today there is a 100-lb loggerhead turtle swimming freely, doing its part in the marine eco-chain and it never endured the pain of having its head chopped off and its life coming to a cruel and heinous end.”

Save The Bays, with more than 20,000 Facebook friends and nearly 7,000 signatures on its petition, is advocating for freedom of information, an end to unregulated development, a comprehensive environmental protection act and more. Its work includes supporting youth environmental summer camps, environmental training and hands-on experiences.

Its chairman, Darville, a retired educator and counselor who holds a certification in climate change training, is not immune to the calls of the fishermen who want the turtle ban reviewed, but urges that the law be retained as is.

“I remember eating turtle as a child and how sweet that meat was,” he said. “But that was before…There was a lot of stuff we did back then because we didn’t know any better. Now with all the threats facing the turtle population – illegal fishing, habitat loss, climate change, marine pollution – and with our better understanding of their importance to the ecological chain, we must show this remarkable species the respect and protection it so richly deserves. The Bahamas received worldwide attention and applause for protecting sea turtles and there is no way we should consider moving backward now.”