More Political-Correctness from Animal Wackos

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Fri Apr 4 18:59:26 MST 2003



Fla. Looks at Turtle Egg Poaching Laws

By BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Associated Press Writer
April 4, 2003, 2:19 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- They're smuggled into the country from Latin America
or plucked off Florida beaches at night to be sold in a black market
authorities are struggling to stop.

They are sea turtle eggs, a purported aphrodisiac among Latin and Caribbean
cultures and a delicacy among some in the South. And while wildlife
officers try to stop nest raids and customs officials try to stop
smugglers, a Florida lawmaker is sponsoring a bill to create tougher
penalties for poachers.

"Unless somebody actually sees you removing the eggs from the nest, it's
not a felony. It's a fairly low-level misdemeanor," said Sen. Steven
Geller. "If it's a felony to take the eggs and if they catch you with 25,
clearly you're pushing eggs."

Federal law allows penalties of up to five years in prison and $250,000 in
fines for taking eggs from nests, but poachers are often tried in state
court. Geller's bill, which would make it a felony to possess 12 or more
sea turtle eggs, still needs House approval before going to Gov. Jeb Bush.

Turtles lay about 100 eggs per nest, and poachers sell the eggs, which are
about the size of ping pong balls, for $2 to $3 each. They usually raid the
nests between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. when there's little chance of running into
anyone on the beach.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigator Eddie McKissick said eggs are sold at
restaurants and bars in the Miami area, but are rarely on the menu.

"It's not the type of thing where you can just walk into a bar or
restaurant and say 'Let me get a couple of eggs.' If they don't know you --
uh-uh -- you're not getting any eggs," McKissick said. "You have to know
the right person, you have to know the right passwords or code words to get
them."

Sea turtle egg poaching is common in the Caribbean, Central America, Asia
and India. In the United States, the largest poaching problem is in
Florida, though McKissick said it happens up the coast into North Carolina
among groups whose past generations took eggs of the beach before it was
illegal.

"They take an egg, punch a hole in it, toss a little hot sauce down inside
and suck it down," McKissick said. "There are people in all those cultures
who would swear that it's an aphrodisiac."

McKissick said his agency only has two investigators to cover miles of
coastline. The state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also only
has a handful of people to protect thousands of nests.

Officers do get some help from volunteers like Debbie Sobel, president of
the Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island.

When the group finds disturbed nests, it reports it to the state, which
sets up overnight surveillance. While that has helped catch poachers, the
penalties aren't strong enough to stop them, she said.

"They get a slap on the hand and they send them off. They keep catching the
same men over and over again," Sobel said. "Then they get out on the beach
and poach eggs to pay their fine."
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