(Trinidad Guardian) Less than an hour after four men appeared in court on Tuesday charged with possession of a protected green turtle, the animal was released back into the sea.
Gregory David, 56, a supervisor, Owen Vialva, 47, a fisherman, Phillip Phagoo, 26, a construction worker and Michael Joseph, 38, labourer of Cedros were each granted $50,000 bail with clerk of the peace approval.
They appeared before Point Fortin First Court Senior Magistrate Rajendra Rambachan who also fixed a cash bail for each of them in the sum of $15,000.
The men were arrested around 10.30 am on Monday after Customs officers under the directive of Customs officer 11 Kirk Peters stopped a Nissan Navara at Cedros.
It is alleged that the turtle was found in a crocus bag in the van. The four occupants were arrested and subsequently charged by senior game warden Steve Seepersad.
According to the charge, they are alleged to have been in possession of the environmentally sensitive species. The offence under the Environmental Management Act carries a maximum penalty $100,000 and two years imprisonment.
The one-and-half-year-old turtle was brought to the court in a cage.
Attorney Kristoff Rambert requested bail for all four accused and prosecutor Sgt Jesse Jitmansigh did not object. The matter was adjourned to March 11.
Game wardens Steve Seepersad, Andy Singh, Jeremy Dindial, Visham Madhu, and Forestry Division driver Hayden Simmons took the animal to the coastline near the Cedros jetty where they released it back into the ocean.
About the green turtle
The green turtle is one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. Green turtles are in fact named for the greenish colour of their cartilage and fat, not their shells.
In the Eastern Pacific, a group of green turtles that have darker shells are called black turtles by the local community. Green turtles are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters.
Like other sea turtles, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatched. Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by over-harvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.