Sunday, February 8, 2009

Not fazed!

In October 2008, MCSS reported on a turtle poaching incident where the suspected turtle killers got away as there was no evidence to search or arrest them. The blog concluded with the hope that while they may have gotten away with murder that day, the effort that went into tracking the suspected poachers, would discourage them from trying again.

How wrong can you be!

On the 3rd of January 2009, the same boat and one assumes the same men, where involved in another poaching incident. A turtle was taken at sea of one of the nesting beaches in the South of Mahe while a resident watched helpless on the shore.

The incident was reported to MCSS who passed the information on to the police and Ministry of Environment, but by the time everyone was mobilised the poachers had already landed their catch and disappeared.

A week later the boat was once again sighted off a nesting beach in the South of Mahe. MCSS Research Officer, Elke Talma, was on the beach at the time with a turtle and watched with horror as the animal entered the water and headed straight towards the boat.

Turtles no longer safe from poachers once they get in the water, photo Elke Talma
Seeing an opportunity, the man in the boat jumped into the water with his snorkelling gear and headed towards the turtle. The lucky turtle managed to get away but the snorkeller continued to look for a good hour, before getting back on his boat with his partner in crime.

During that time, Elke had pretended to leave the beach and hid in some bushes, watching the men’s every move, daring them to harm one of her turtles. After an hour of watching them catch only octopus, it seems that they were behaving, and Elke had to decide whether she would spend the rest of the day in the bushes or finish of the morning beach patrols.

Two hours later, the beaches were done and Elke was back on the would-be poachers trail. They were further north and where still looking for octopus some 300m offshore from beach # 5. By 13:00, they had reached Intendance beach where they collected fish from 3 fish traps before moving on to Anse Takamaka. Here they had 2 fish traps to check before heading home.
Local fish traps used to catch herbivorous fish on sea grass beds, photo Jude Bijoux

Driving ahead of them, Elke was able to get to the overnight mooring site before them and found another bush to hide behind. She watched through binoculars, as they unloaded fish and octopus from their ice box, removed the boat engine – all the time surrounded by kids playing in the shallow water around them.

By 15:00, they were selling their catch and Elke had wasted a day playing detective with nothing to show for her effort. Throughout this whole adventure, Gilberte Gendron from the Ministry of Environment was kept informed, but as the men had not broken the law, no action could be taken. Elke had been hoping that another spot check, this time by the police, would at least keep them on their toes.
Artisanal fishing boats on mooring for the night, photo Elke Talma

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