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Save our turtles! - Duncans Bay residents, environmentalists continue to sound alarm over threats to species

Published:Saturday | August 17, 2019 | 12:22 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

The illegal practice of killing turtles and poaching their nests for eggs, which has become a feature of life in Duncans Bay, Trelawny, has left one veteran fisherman fuming as he does not believe that enough is being done to curtail the practice.

Ewan Kenton, who has been fishing in the area for more than 40 years, says even when legal action is taken against offenders, the fine is so small that it is unlikely to drive fear into anyone.

“The fine of $100,000 or 12 months in prison is not a deterrent to fishermen in the Duncans Bay area,” said Kenton, who was attending a recent presentation by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) on ‘The Ecology and Conservation of sea turtles in Jamaica’.

“On several occasions, while walking along the beach, I see turtle shells thrown in the bushes. I also see signs where nests are disturbed,” added Kenton.

JET representative Andrea Donaldson said the illicit practice needs to be stemmed as it could prove catastrophic in regard to the preservation of turtles in Jamaica.

“All sea turtles are critically endangered and without conservation, local extinction may occur,” said Donaldson, who made an impassioned plea for everyone to join in the fight to save the turtles.

Trelawny-based environmentalist Delroy Boswell said he has personally observed turtle tracks on the Duncans Bay beach and the disturbance of their nests.

“It is not unusual to be able to purchase turtle stew and turtle punch from restaurants in the area,” said Boswell. “Yet, with all of this happening, there has been no prosecution or arrest.”

When quizzed, Antoinette Brown, the National Environment and Protection Agency (NEPA) representative for Trelawny, refused to say whether the agency was aware of the situation or if any action is being taken to halt the practice.

“I am not the authorised person to speak on that matter,” said Brown, who referred The Gleaner to NEPA Public Relations Officer Ollyvia Anderson, who was unavailable.

Long-standing problem

For several years, residents of the Duncans Bay area have been calling on NEPA to join their efforts to protect the turtles and limit threats to their existence by poachers and construction activities.

Four species of sea turtles nest in Jamaica – the Hawksbill, Green, Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the Hawksbill as critically endangered, the Green Turtle and Loggerhead Turtle as endangered and the Leatherback Turtle as vulnerable. Because of their status, all four species of sea turtles are protected by Jamaican law.

The Wild Life Protection Act (1945) makes it an offence to have a sea turtle or any part of the animal in one’s possession. Anyone found guilty of this offence is liable to a fine of up to $100,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.