Turtle poaching: Over 100kg of meat destroyed, while Seychelles court case continues
A little over 100 kilogrammes of turtle meat, which were exhibited in an ongoing court case, were destroyed on Tuesday at the Seychelles Hospital incinerator in the presence of officers from the Seychelles Police Force and the environment ministry in accordance with disposal protocol.
The 117 kg of turtle meat were seized onboard a boat called Pelican on November 5 around Alphonse Island in a joint operation by the Seychelles Coast Guard and the Marine Police.
A senior conservation officer from the Ministry of Environment, Kevin Moumou, said that this was the biggest seizure of the year.
“The Ministry of Environment is treating this case as serious and the key message being sent out is that it is illegal to carry out such activities. It is something that will not be tolerated. A crime has been committed and such evidence cannot be consumed and as such must be destroyed,” said Moumou.
He added that because of the state the meat was in when seized, it is unclear how many turtles were poached. He outlined that it is currently the peak of the nesting season with many turtles coming to shore to nest and, as such, people are poaching turtles.
“We have encountered a few cases this year. Recently there was a poaching attempt at Ile Soleil. Sadly, the turtle died and the case is currently in the custody of the police,” said Moumou.
The turtle meat was brought to the incinerator in the presence of the police force’s sub-inspector, Anipha Hoareau. Six white gunny bags were unloaded from the booth of the vehicle transporting the meat from its original location, which was not disclosed, to the incinerator. Upon request, two bags were opened to reveal the frozen meat. All the exhibits were destroyed in under 20 minutes.
The police did not provide the media with information about procedures in such cases, including if the meat was weighed again before being destroyed or why the bags were not sealed and properly labeled.
In Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, sea turtles are protected under the Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act, under which the Wild Animals (Turtles) Regulations enacted in 1994, completely bans all disturbances, harvest, sale, possession of turtles, turtle products or eggs.
Under the Act, the penalty for offences is up to two years in prison and a fine of SCR 5,000 ($385) to SCR 500,000 ($38,600).
According to a previous statement from the police, the boat’s owner, a 46-year-old man from the eastern district of Cascade, and two men, aged 24 and 19, were arrested during the operation.
The three individuals have been formally charged with the offence of turtle meat possession and will re-appear before the court on January 13 to make their plea.