PRESS RELEASE – The Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) is becoming increasingly concerned about the illegal and indiscriminate harvesting of Sea Urchins (chadon), particularly in Vieux Fort.
Evidence of this came to light after a routine visit to Maria Islands by SLNT staff on Saturday October 25th when remnants of sea urchin shells, including young ones which were useless to the poachers, were scattered on the islet’s shores.
What is even more disturbing is that poachers have become more aggressive in their activities and do not care to target the more mature animals. The organization has received reports of the illegal act, more so leading up to creole day celebrations.
The Department of Fisheries (DOF) has advised that the Sea Urchin fishery is closed and that anyone caught either harvesting or having the sea urchins in their possession is liable to penalties under Fisheries Act Cap.7.15 of the Laws of Saint Lucia.
In addition, the public should also be aware that the waters surrounding Maria Islands is a declared marine reserve or a ‘no take zone’ meaning it would be illegal to fish, harvest or remove any marine flora or fauna from these waters.
The DOF made a decision to keep the Sea Urchin season closed this year after a survey revealed that the current sea urchin population had not recovered to the point of opening the fishery.
For its part, the SLNT also wants to remind the public that the Maria Islands are vested in the Trust and anyone wishing to visit or go unto the islands must first seek approval from the Trust who would ensure that a designated Officer is present for the duration of the visit.
Anyone operating outside these parameters would be contravening the laws of Saint Lucia and would be liable to applicable penalties.
The SLNT, by this statement is warning would be perpetrators that they will be monitoring the areas more closely and will not hesitate to support the enforcement of the appropriate penalties against those who insist on engaging in these illegal acts.
The cooperation of the public is solicited by ensuring that they do not purchase any sea urchins and other regulated fishery products from poachers. The public is also encouraged to report such incidents to the Praedial Larceny Unit – 454-1931, District Police Stations, Fisheries Department – 4684147 or the SLNT 454-5014.