The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has revealed today that it is working on setting up stricter fines of up to MVR10 million (US$650,000) for the illegal capture of turtles and tortoises.
Senior research officer Adam Ziyad told Haveeru that the regulation would allow the ministry to penalise offenders who illegally capture turtles and tortoises, adding that the regulation had been sent to the Attorney General’s Office for legal advice.
The government’s response came after local environmental NGOs Ecocare and Bluepeace condemned images circulating on social media showing a turtle being cut in half, demanding an immediate response.
Also speaking at the press conference today, Director Hussein Sinan said that current procedures required the police to file the cases as criminal offenses, leading to a court case which often does not yield results due to difficulties in obtaining testimony from offenders.
However, with the new regulation in place, the fisheries ministry would have the authority to punish the offenders.
Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, Bluepeace Executive Director Ali Rilwan said that the main obstruction to preventing such instances was poor coordination between the ministry of fisheries and the Environmental Protection Agency – a regulatory body under the Ministry of Environment and Energy.
According to the existing fisheries regulations, the “catching, fishing, collecting or killing” of sea turtles is illegal throughout the country. The collection of sea turtles and eggs is also illegal, but only in 14 of the country’s 1,192 islands.