by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Image of a Green turtle dragged on its shell by a rope sparked debate
- Hunting of turtle annually prohibited in Grenada between 1 April to 31 August
- Grenada’s turtle hunting destroys other islands’ efforts to protect endangered turtles
An image on social media has sparked a debate about cruelty to animals, particularly in this instance, marine species which are considered endangered. The image of a spearfisherman dragging a Green turtle on its shell by a rope caught the attention to sea turtle conservation organisation, Ocean Spirits, which continues to advocate for ‘strengthening legislation to fully protect all sea turtle species and their eggs year-round.’ The image location appears to be in the south of Grenada.
In Grenada, the hunting of turtle species is annually prohibited between 1 April to 31 August, thereafter fishermen have seven months in which to hunt. However, even though the fisherman in question did not break any laws pertaining to the hunting of these endangered species, conservationist at Ocean Spirits, Kate Charles, said the organisation is still baffled that Grenada’s fisheries legislation has allowed this practice to continue, taking into consideration that under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, Leatherbacks are listed as ‘Vulnerable,’ Green turtles listed as ‘Endangered’ and Hawksbills as ‘Critically Endangered.’
“The fishermen aren’t breaking the law – the season is open. But it is an endangered species and all our surroundings islands protect their turtles. So as they migrate past Grenada and are hunted, it is destroying other islands’ hard work and efforts,” Charles said. “We would like to see a moratorium or an outright ban on the hunting of all hard-shell turtle species in Grenada. However, a shorter season is better than nothing. Grenada has the longest open season in the region. This would allow our hard-shell populations to be properly accessed and studied.”
Fisheries Extension Officer Eastern District and Acting Chief Fisheries officer Francis Toby Calliste, said based upon observation of the image and the size of the turtle, the fisherman did not break any laws.
“Basically, we have an open and close season for sea turtles. What eventually happens is that when the season is open as of 1 September, therefore, turtles can be harvested currently except the Leatherback species. There are also a weight limit and size limit. The weight of the turtle must be over 25 pounds; anything less you would be committing an offence as it relates to the size and weight of the turtle. This has to be borne in mind,” said Calliste.
With that being said, Calliste reiterated that cruelty to animals will not be tolerated by the Fisheries Division.
“The Fisheries Division will not advocate cruelty to animals or tying rope around a turtle and pulling it …we do not support that. It is supposed to be handled humanely,” he said.
The most recent survey available, released in 2007, recorded a discrepancy in the number of Endangered and Critically Endangered sea turtles caught, versus the percentage being officially recorded at a landing site. According to the survey an estimated 782 turtles, mainly Endangered Green turtles Chelonia mydas and Critically Endangered Hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata, were caught around Grenada and Carriacou each year between 1996 and 2001 during an annual open season. However, only a small percentage was recorded at a landing site.