Lobster, conch, turtles and a parrot are among the illegally taken animals seized by environment enforcement officers in recent investigations, according to a report to the National Conservation Council.
Department of Environment officers confiscated animals or spearguns from poachers on 16 separate occasions, according to a report on their activity between April and August this year.
Where possible, the animals were returned to the wild, though some large hauls of lobster and conch were donated to the Pines Retirement Home and Meals on Wheels charity.
Mark Orr, chief enforcement officer, said the report represented a snapshot of what his officers were dealing with on a daily basis.
He said it detailed only cases where equipment was seized and what action was taken. It does not include incidents were no items were recovered.
“We have a lot more cases, generally, but that is a good sample of the kind of activity we see,” he said.
The cases include nine incidents that are either currently going through the courts or are with the Department of Public Prosecutions for potential prosecution. In other, more minor incidents, suspects escaped with a warning.
In one case, two men were arrested for catching 24 fish with spearguns. In another incident, poachers took 18 conch and six lobster.
One man was found with a wild parrot, that had its wings clipped. The bird was released back into the wild after its “flying feathers” grew back, according to the report.
Mr. Orr said he believes most people accept and abide by conservation laws to protect species like lobster and conch. But he said a minority of committed poachers continued to ignore the rules.
“The general public is pretty good about it. Not everyone likes it, but they understand the need for it and they know we need these restrictions if they want their grandkids to enjoy the marine life too,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we have a handful of criminals that we are dealing with or hearing reports about on an almost weekly basis. It is a small percentage of people that are out there basically doing it as a job. They don’t care about preserving marine life for future generations.”
He said he was familiar with the argument that people had fished conch and lobster for generations and that some considered it their right to continue to do so, to feed their families.
“I grew up hearing that argument, but unfortunately we don’t have the reserves of marine life any more for anyone to go out and take 100 conch in one afternoon.”