The Ministry of Agriculture has issued a statement in the aftermath of the capture and slaughter this week of a juvenile Orca or killer whale by two Saint Lucia fishers.
The incident ignited a firestorm on social media with some people condemning the actions of the fishers as illegal.
However, in a release Thursday, the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development indicated that the two men complied with the requirements of the Fisheries Act.
The complete release appears below:
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food security and Rural Development is aware of the public interest and concerns regarding the pictures and video footage of the capture and landing of a marine mammal of the order Cetacea.
Cetaceans include whales, dolphins and porpoises. In Saint Lucia we have adopted a sustainable use policy as such there has been the traditional use of Cetaceans utilising the meat typically known as Blackfish, Mashwen or Calebasse or pilot whale, which is a small cetacean. Based on the distinguishing features, the animal landed has been identified as an orca or killer whale (Scientific name: Orcinus orca), which is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member.
The Fisheries Act Cap. 7.15 of the Revised Laws of Saint Lucia makes provision for the promotion and regulation of fishing and fisheries in the fishery waters of Saint Lucia. According to Section 38 of the Regulations, “A person shall not take, kill, damage or fish for any marine mammal or any species of marine mammals in any bay or harbour of Saint Lucia.”
The Department has been advised that the animal was not captured in a bay or harbour and can confirm that the fishing vessel was licensed to fish. As such the captain and crew of the vessel complied with the requirements of the Fisheries Act.
Further, the Ministry advises that Killer whales are considered Data Deficient on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened species and as such, are not listed as an endangered species.
The Ministry recognises that marine mammals are known to be charismatic animal species with symbolic value or widespread popular appeal; however, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective.