The Department of Environment (DOE) issues a warning over the use of illegal fish pots. It comes as two tourists jumped into action to save a turtle trapped in a floating fish pot along Hyatt Canal recently.
DOE Chief Conservation officer Mark Orr said the illegal pot that claimed the life of a juvenile Hawksbill sea turtle and it may have claimed many more before it was found by the tourists. Mr. Orr adds seeing these pots are common, but finding a turtle in it is not.
“Unfortunately, it was just more wave action making it move and the shell was deteriorated. The turtle was probably swollen with some gases which is what made it float to the surface. That pot could’ve been there for quite a long time, with the algae on it. It’s what we call a ghost pot, a pot that isn’t checked regularly and it continues to kill marine life,” said Mr. Orr.
The DOE said anyone caught using illegal fish pots can face stiff penalties, those can range from 4 years imprisonment or up to $500,000 in fines. Mr. Orr said fish pots must be passed by the Department of Environment before being used.
“It’s easier for something like a turtle or another animal such as small sharks to get inside of those types of pots, whereas if you have licenses and you build it to the requirements, more than likely it won’t happen,” said Mr. Orr.
He stated the fishpot was removed from the ocean but the turtle carcass was not found.
The DOE is encouraging the public to bring in their fishpots to the department for inspection before placing them into the ocean.