Poachers were disturbed in the act as they attempted to drag a 400 pound nesting green sea turtle off a West Bay beach.
The three men fled the area, leaving the turtle lying on its back, after they were interrupted by a fisherman, out with his dog, at around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Police and Department of Environment officials were called to the scene and the turtle was helped safely back to the sea. Department of Environment enforcement officer Mark Orr said it had taken four people to lift the turtle over the ironshore and back to the water.
“We took some DNA samples and measurements and carried her about 100 feet to get back to the water. She wouldn’t have been able to make it back on her own from where we found her,” Mr. Orr said.
He said Department of Environment patrols, which monitor the beaches and tag nesting turtles, do their best to protect the animals and prevent poaching, but incidents continue to occur.
“The usual thing is that they cut [the turtles] up and sell the meat. Unfortunately, they would not have had much trouble going door to door and selling it. We are still fighting this idea that it is traditional and people have a right to catch them.
“We don’t have the numbers to support that anymore. We have to keep battling against it.”
A 400 pound turtle could have made the men more than $1,000 on the black market, Mr. Orr believes. He said turtles were a “target of opportunity” for poachers. The Department of Environment typically sees around two to three incidents of turtle poaching every year.
During nesting season, volunteers patrol the beaches to count the number of nests and ensure the safety of the turtles and their nests.