Bahamas proposes ban on turtling

| 09/10/2008

(CNS): The capture of all sea turtles could be banned in the Bahamas by April 2009, a move proposed by the islands’ Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources and supported by the Bahamas National Trust, which says that conservation of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation to ensure their survival. (Left: a Green turtle poached from Cayman waters)

The proposed phased ban in the Bahamas full protection would immediately give protection to the Hawksbill Turtle which would be extended to the Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtles from 31 October this year. From 31 December 2008 the commercial harvest, purchase, or sale of all species of marine turtles found within the Bahamian exclusive economic zone, and/or of their by-products such as their shells would be prohibited.

From 1 April 3 2009 full protection would be extended to all marine turtles found in the exclusive economic zone by prohibiting the harvesting of all marine turtles except with the permission of the Minister for scientific research, public display or educational purposes.

In the Cayman Islands, about 10 people have licenses to catch Green or Loggerhead turtles, – taking Hawksbill Turtle is prohibited – and they are permitted to catch up to 4 turtles per year under the maximum allowable size of 24 inches curved shell length during open season, December through March.

Turtles must not be taken along West Bay Beach, in George Town Harbour, or in any of the bays or sounds within the reef, and cannot be slaughtered until inspected and approved by a Fisheries Officer. Licences to catch turtles are given at the discretion of the Marine Conservation Board. They cannot be inherited or passed on and no new licenses will be approved.

Poaching still occurs, however, and recently a poached female Green Turtle with a shell more than 4 feet long and weighing more than 400 lbs was recovered by the Department of Environment (DoE). Moreover, an autopsy showed the turtle was full of unlaid eggs when she died.

“This means that she was part of our critically endangered Cayman Islands nesting population,” according to a spokesperson at the DoE. “She is the largest green turtle DoE has ever documented nesting in the wild. She likely took two decades to mature and had already nested here for many years – helping our turtle populations to recover – and would have continued to nest for decades if she hadnot been killed.”

Also discovered with the poached green turtle was a green hatchling taken from a nest laid on Seven Mile Beach by a wild turtle. Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings is estimated to survive to adulthood and it can take more than 20 years for turtles to reach maturity.

The DoE has satellite tracked the nesting green turtles that lay their eggs on Cayman shores to find out where they live when they are not nesting. The poached turtle likely lived in a distant foraging ground and migrated hundreds or thousands of kilometers to nest here each summer, according to the department.

In support of the propoed ban in the Bahamas, the Bahamas National Trust said in a statement, “Long-term studies at the BNTs turtle research centre on Inagua have demonstrated that while survival rates of sea turtles are high in protected areas, they plummet once the turtles begin their natural migrations and face exploitation by humans.
A hatchling sea turtle takes up to 30 years to reach reproductive age, and harvesting drastically reduces the number of nesting females that are available to produce eggs. And turtle eggs command very high prices in some areas, which leads to over-harvesting. Moreover, since turtles lay their eggs on beaches, coastal development has significantly impacted this nesting habit, further reducing survival rates.”

The BNT also said that commercial harvest had a damaging effect on tourism. “The sight of turtles being butchered for meat, or being held waiting to be killed, is abhorrent to many people. Such views have a negative effect on tourists, particularly those who are attracted to The Bahamas for ecotourism.”

Conservation of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation to ensure the survival of these highly migratory animals, the BNT said. “Turtles in The Bahamas are therefore a regional resource and we must join with our neighbors to protect this shared resource.
Fourth, turtles are important to the health of our marine ecosystems.”

Furthermore, the BNT said the proposals “also responds to concerns expressed by citizens and by local and International non-governmental organizations to the Government of The Bahamas calling for strengthened protection of marine turtles in The Bahamas.”


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Turtle Fishing is not sustainable in the Cayman Islands, only about 30  turtles nest in the Grand Cayman each year.  Call on Government to legislate and support the Marine Conservation Board so that they cannot renew any trutle fishing licenses.

    Web Link to Murph tracking website:

    CNS note – I deleted a lot that was just cut and pasted from the above site, but it’s a great web site to visit and thanks ‘anonymous’ for the comment.