The killing of a leatherback turtle at Grand Anse beach has prompted new expressions of concern over the slaughter of the creatures in Saint Lucia.
On Friday morning, reports surfaced that the turtle died after a cutlass blow to the back of the neck.
And Environmentalist Dr. Marie-Louise Felix has expressed concern over the discovery.
She recalled that individuals had slaughtered several other turtles at the same beach in the past.
Felix said the photos she received suggest that someone may have been walking on the beach, saw the turtle and decided to kill it.
“It’s the same way that some people walk on the road, see a frog and decide to kick it. We’ve seen this happening and we don’t understand it. I have gone to Grand Anse beach a few years ago and we found five dead turtles – all of them chopped up as if somebody had fun chopping them up and walked away,” the Environmentalist lamented.
Felix, a lecturer in Environmental Science at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) and the institution’s Environmental Club coordinator, observed that local sandy beaches had become the nesting areas for leatherback, green and hawksbill turtles.
She said there have also been reports of the loggerhead turtle nesting here.
But the former Fisheries Officer told St Lucia Times that Grand Anse beach has become an important nesting site for the leatherback, the biggest marine turtle in the world and considered critically endangered due to declining populations.
Felix explained that the turtles would visit the beach to lay eggs during the current nesting season.
She assumed that someone killed it when the leatherback came up on the beach Thursday night.
However Felix noted that sea turtles are a vital part of the ecosystem.
But she said it was surprising that there’s an open and closed season for sea turtles here.
“You would expect that turtles would be completely protected as they are in several of the other Caribbean countries like Barbados and Antigua where it is completely illegal to capture, interfere with the nesting and collect hatchlings,” Felix told St Lucia Times.
Of the 195 countries worldwide, Saint Lucia is one of only 42 that still allow turtle hunting.
Current local regulations allow an open season from October 1 to December 31 and a closed season from January 1 to September 30.
There are also provisions for weight limits, gear restrictions, and protection of eggs and nesting turtles.
Nevertheless, in March this year, hundreds of people signed an online petition calling for Saint Lucia to ban the hunting and killing of turtles.
The petition coincided with a Sea Turtle Fishery Survey launched by the Fisheries Department.
The department observed that poachers and fishers continue to harvest sea turtles illegally.
And it highlighted concerns including the capture of nesting turtles, the use and sale of turtle eggs, and the slaughter of turtles in open public areas as the demand for turtle meat encourages widespread sale and consumption at ‘popular locations’ locally.
The Sea Turtle Fishery survey, which aimed to engage stakeholders ‘to better manage and protect marine resources’, said there’s a need to review the Sea Turtle Fishery regulations.
And amid the calls for Saint Lucia implement a complete ban, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security, and Rural Development Alfred Prospere last month promised a public statement ‘at the appropriate time’.