BVI Director of Agriculture and Fisheries Theodore James has said that multiple reports have been received recently from fishers of illegal harvesting of turtle eggs and juvenile fish, which is prohibited in the Virgin Islands.
There is no word of any arrests or charges.
The Director said, “Persons living in the Virgin Islands must understand the cultural and conservation measures practiced and enforced in this Territory regarding our turtle fishery and other fisheries.
“Harvesting turtle eggs, and fishing and nurseries of small fish are threatening our fisheries.”
Mr. James called on residents to be responsible and follow the rule of law adding that, “Threats to marine biodiversity have forced Governments worldwide to implement moratoriums just as we have on specific species of turtles and fish, expand closed seasons, and strengthen enforcement measures and penalties to conserve what is left or reverse the damage to fisheries and protect the livelihoods of stakeholders.”
The Director further stated that these developing practices are unlawful, culturally unacceptable, and damaging to turtle conservation in the Territory.
Meanwhile, Fisheries Assistant at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Kia Soares is reminding residents of the efforts made by turtles every year to lay eggs and of the struggle of the low surviving number of hatchlings until they become adults.
Soares said, “Nesting females travel several months, covering hundreds to thousands of miles from their adult foraging grounds, just to lay their eggs in the Virgin Islands. These turtles have a unique genetic fingerprint, unlike other nesting turtles in the region, and monitoring and ensuring the protection of this small nesting population and their hatchlings is critical to their future survival.”
Legislative reform through scientific research and stakeholder input has been the focus of the Sustaining Turtles, Environments, Economies and Livelihoods (STEEL) project funded through the UK Darwin Initiative.
The public is reminded, says a BVI Government press release that under Regulation 22 of the Fisheries Regulations 2003, it is illegal to disturb, remove from the fishery waters, expose for sale, sell, purchase or have in its possession any turtle’s eggs from April 1 to November 30.
The warning does not say what the penalty is for breaching these regulations.
The public is also urged to contact the department at 468-6123/9195 or the local non-profit organisation, Association of Reef Keepers (ARK) at 496-7998/9195, to report areas of turtle nesting, their tracks, sightings of hatchlings and any disturbances to these nests.
Source: BVI Government press release.