30 June 2011

Kenya: KWS Arrest Fishermen for Killing Priced Green Turtle

Kenya Wildlife Service rangers in Malindi yesterday arrested four fishermen who allegedly used illegal fishing methods to kill an endangered green sea turtle and fish species at Kivulini, in the Indian Ocean.

The rangers also recovered three crude spear guns from the four suspects which should not be used in the Indian Ocean and have been described as a threat to sea turtles.

It is alleged Kahindi Mwachiro, Kazungu Sulubu, Nassir Mohamed and Ahmed Ali were on their way out of the Indian Ocean when rangers on patrol spotted them and laid a trap.

Kenya Wildlife Service senior warden in charge of Malindi Marine National Park Isaac Mugo said the green turtle, weighed 20 kilos with a length of 68.g centimetres and a width of 59 centimetres.

He said the huge turtle had been shot to death in the back with the poisonous spear. "The suspects were doing illegal fishing, three of them had spear guns and were also fishing sea turtles which is against the fisheries laws," he said. The fisheries law prohibits fishing of sea turtles and any other illegal fishing methods in the Indian Ocean.

Mugo said turtle meat had a black market of Sh5000 since a kilogramme is sold at Sh250 while its medicinal oil is sold at Sh2,500 per 750 milimetre bottle.

He said the fishermen usually sell the shells at an unknown value for jewellery and other decorations to tourists at a high premium. "The fishermen knew very well that it is illegal to fish the sea turtles, but they usually hide and hunt because of its good meat, the turtle oil which is medicinal and the shells," he said.

Most fishermen had been sensitised about the importance of preserving the sea turtle, but still went on with the illegal fishing adding that one of the major challenge was to arrest them because they were armed and could even shoot the officers. "Arresting them is one of the major challenges because of their weapons - the spear guns - as they can decide to shoot the officers whenever they lay an ambush in the sea or offshore," he said.

Mugo said since January they have recovered two sea turtles in Marereni, one was dead while the other one was sick and was taken to the Watamu turtle watch, an NGO dealing with protection of sea turtles.

He said all the five species of turtles were endangered and named Kivulini, Mayungu, Rosada paths as the one used by the illegal fishermen to conduct their illegal activities.

He said they plan to establish a sanctuary to involve the community in managing the turtles. "Plans are already at an advanced stage in Marereni, which has many turtles, to begin conservation programme to ensure the turtles are protected," he said. He also added that the sea turtle management plan launched last year would also help ending the problem. Other fish species that are endangered in the Indian Ocean include the Dolphins and Dugongs.

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