View Full Version : Idiots Steal Endangered Loggerhead Turtle Eggs

The Publisher
06-13-2009, 05:57 PM

-Friday June 12th, 2009

Four Sea Turtle Nests Poached in Sarasota County

Poachers took four clutches of sea turtle eggs between June 6-12 from Sarasota County beaches, leaving empty nest cavities that were discovered by Mote Marine Laboratory's Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers.

"Poaching has been almost completely unknown in Sarasota County," said biologist Ryan Welsh of Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. "We've had some suspected cases before but they weren't as clear-cut as these recent ones."

Local authorities don't know who took the eggs, which were laid by three turtles on Venice beaches and one turtle on Casey Key. All four clutches were laid by loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), a threatened species protected by federal and state laws, as well as county ordinances.

People steal sea turtle eggs to eat or sell on the black market. Possessing sea turtle eggs without a permit carries penalties of up to one year in prison and federal fines up to $100,000, along with state fines up to $500 plus $100 for every egg taken.

Sarasota County beaches host the highest density of nesting loggerheads in the Gulf of Mexico. Sea turtles already face several human threats, including entanglement in fishing gear, entrapment in beach furniture left out overnight, disorientation caused by beach lighting, pollution and boat strikes. Poaching now poses another threat.

Mote volunteers patrolling the beach found the nests disturbed and empty. Mote staff examined the nests, confirmed the eggs had likely been stolen and then notified local and state authorities. Mote staff, interns and volunteers monitor nesting activity every day on 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches May through October. They mark nests, deter predators and occasionally move nests in danger of washing away.

"Females lay about 100 eggs in a nest and only one out of 1000 will reach adulthood," Welsh said. Poaching of nests leaves fewer hatchling turtles to struggle against these odds - fewer chances that one will survive to lay eggs of its own.

That means protecting each nest is extremely important.

Sarasota County beachgoers should know how to tell poachers from permitted sea turtle patrollers who have legal permission from Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to interact with nests for conservation and monitoring purposes.

All staff, interns and volunteers in Mote's Sea Turtle Patrol wear special T-shirts that state "Sea Turtle Patrol" and have the Mote logo. Those with legal permission to excavate nests always carry a permit, which they will show if asked.

Beachgoers should report suspicious activities involving sea turtles or their eggs to county authorities, who enforce turtle protection ordinances. "We are dedicated to the conservation of sea turtles throughout Sarasota County and we encourage beachgoers to report possible poaching activity," said Keri Nelson, a Sarasota County Environmental Specialist

If you encounter someone harassing a sea turtle, digging a sea turtle nest or handling sea turtle eggs and they do not appear to be Mote Sea Turtle Patrol personnel, please contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 immediately. Anonymous calls are accepted.

sources: Mote/Bay News