Conservationist Errol Harris has described efforts at protecting sea turtles in Dominica as an ‘uphill battle.’
This, as sources told Dominica News Online of the indiscriminate killing of Leather Back turtles and the digging of their nests at the Salisbury Beach.
“Four men are capturing turtles from the Salisbury Beach to sell in the community market and are also known to cook the eggs after capturing and butchering the mothers,” a source said. “At nights these men take their fishing boats up to the beach and drag the creatures unto their vessel and later probe the beach for the abandoned eggs.” according to the source.
But Harris said repeated efforts by his organization, the Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization Inc, to end such practices has not been an easy task because of the lucrative black market and laws to protect the endangered species have not been correctly amended.
“Presently the maximum sentence for catching an endangered turtle is $400 or 3 months in prison,” he said. “Two years ago it was agreed that law would be amended to increase the maximum fine to $7,000 but up to now this has not been done.”
Harris said the fine is just too small to deter people from killing the animals. “I heard one man said he can make more than $400 on one turtle,” he pointed out. “So the fine is not really having an impact.”
He said his organization, with the help of volunteers, has been trying to make sure that turtles that come ashore on the island are not killed. “The government allows turtles to be killed at sea during certain times of the year but we protect them when they come ashore,” the conservationist explained. “So we have patrosl on beaches around the island as much as we can.”
Harris is lamenting the lack of funds for his work. “We just don’t have the funds,” he stated. “We work with communities around the island but if we had the funds we could do more. It is really an uphill battle.”
He said his organization will investigate the complains coming from Salisbury.