St. Vincent and the Grenadines will as of January 1, make it illegal to catch or kill sea turtles or disturb their nest. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves recently announced the change in the law at an event in Calliaqua, held to upgrade the fisheries facility in the town.
Under the current law, sea turtles are protected species in St Vincent, with the open season running from August 1 to February 28. But during the open season, it is illegal to catch, sell, buy or have in one’s possession undersized turtles or their shells.
The minimum weights for sea turtles that can be caught during the open season are: leatherback turtles — 350 lbs; green turtles — 180 lbs; hawksbill turtles – 85 lbs; and loggerhead turtles — 160 lbs. It is always illegal to interfere with the eggs and nests of sea turtles and anyone found violating these regulations is liable to a fine of up to EC$5,000.
According to Gonsalves, the government has been working with the SVG Preservation Fundto upgrade the facility that was funded by Japan under a US$4.6 million grant secured in 2014.
Gonsalves also addressed the issue of whaling as humpback whales are being killed in Bequia and pilot whales are killed in Barrouallie. “And there is nothing inconsistent with our traditional whaling and whale watching,” Gonsalves said.
[. . .] But Gonsalves said he wanted to indicate to the Japanese that there is a strong conservation movement that is growing, “which means that we have to have a proper education about the sustainable use of marine resources. I want to say, and I’ll make this announcement because Cabinet has already decided that as of January the 1st, in keeping with the mantra, no extinction in our generation, that we are imposing a complete ban on the hunting and killing of turtles and also of the eggs.”
Gonsalves said that a project for turtle watching was already being devised. He said that the beaches between Colonaire and Black Point and up at Sandy Bay at Big Sand on St. Vincent’s north-eastern coast are two main places in St. Vincent where turtles nest.
The prime minister further said his government is doing a lot of education in schools, adding that while there is a conservation “challenge” with one species of turtle in local waters, his government will protect all four species that live here.
However, he made it clear that he was not talking of banning traditional whaling.