Shell from turtle, likely poached, recovered

Department of Environment officials measure the size of a turtle shell found in a dumpster in Morgan’s Harbour. It is suspected the animal was a victim of poaching.

A shell that came from a green turtle estimated to weigh from 300 to 400 pounds, was found Saturday in a dumpster in Morgan’s Harbour. Officials believe the shell likely came from a poached turtle.

Department of Environment research officer Janice Blumenthal said police received an anonymous call alerting them to the shell, which was more than 3½ feet long. She said the DoE typically documents several such acts of poaching each year.

In an email, Blumenthal said she could not comment on whether police had any leads in the case as it is an ongoing investigation. The shell is being held for evidence.

A study done in 2014‑2015 surveyed 560 people in Cayman about their use of turtle meat.

“At least 195 households were estimated to have bought illegal wild turtle meat during the 12 months prior to this study,” Blumenthal said.

Legal turtle meat is available via a retail outlet connected with the Cayman Islands Turtle Centre. Efforts are ongoing to mark the packages sold by the centre so that consumers and enforcement officials know whether turtle meat is legal or not.

“The intention is for the system to be as easy as possible for consumers,” Blumenthal said, “with no need for them to retain receipts to prove the source of turtle meat. Turtle Centre staff members have been working very hard to ensure that the bags are convenient to transport and store, and that they can be frozen if needed.

“Through this meat marking system, we will be able to educate consumers to buy only legal, marked turtle meat (some turtle meat is sold by third-parties, including door-to-door sellers).” she added. “This will reduce the market for illegal, poached turtle meat.”

If people suspect they have seen evidence of poaching, Blumenthal said they should contact law enforcement.

“Call 911 for crimes in progress,” she said. “Other information can be reported to Crime Stoppers or to the DoE’s chief conservation officer at 916‑4271.

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