12-06-2022 by Leni Frau
It has been a long time since the Kenya Wildlife Service in Watamu has been forced to arrest a sea turtle poacher.
The protected species that on the Kenyan coast and especially in the Malindi and Watamu Marine Park area and on the beaches of Diani is being safeguarded from extinction, to the dangers caused by the environment and plastics in the ocean, must add those of those who especially at night poach them in order to resell their meat, which is considered very protein-rich and prized by the coastal population.
As KWS itself reports on its social pages, rangers were alerted to illegal nighttime activities and seized fishing gear containing a young green sea turtle, an endangered species, poached in the Kanani area of Watamu. It is now being investigated whether this is an isolated phenomenon and how long the poacher had been carrying on his activities.
"All species of sea turtles are critical to the health of marine ecosystems in protected areas," recalls KWS. "The greens are especially important for maintaining seagrass beds and females find nourishment so they can lay eggs on beaches.
The law provides very harsh penalties to poachers who are found in possession of protected species, not only from the savanna but also from the sea: for them there are sentences of up to 20 million shillings or equivalent penalties, up to life imprisonment.
Two Lamu fishermen were sentenced to pay 3 million shillings in 2019 for killing a green sea turtle. It was a precedent the Kenyan High Court set to try to deter other smugglers.
"The iconic sea turtles are a major attraction for visitors to Watamu and help grow the tourism economy of Watamu Marine Park, an important nesting area for sea turtles," the KWS explains. "Divers and snorkelers often see them around the reef. Over the past three decades, Watamu has worked successfully through active collaboration between KWS and local conservation groups, creating awareness in fishing communities and creating economic alternatives to fishing and poaching."
(photo courtesy of Local Ocean Trust)
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