By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THREE people arrested for violation of the Fisheries Act, after cell phone footage went viral of a man killing a sea turtle with a hammer in Grand Bahama, appeared in the Eight Mile Rock Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
Michael Pinder, 54, of West End, Cyril Pennerman, and his wife, Margaret, both 63, of Freeport, were given a conditional discharge for the offence and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and attend a Voluntary Intervention Programme.
They appeared before Magistrate Gwen Claude, charged with possession of marine turtle under Section 29A of the Fisheries Resources Regulation and Section 24 Subsection (1) of the Fisheries Resources Act, Chapter 244.
It is alleged that the trio between March 6 and 7, being concerned together at West End, possessed a marine turtle without a permit.
Pinder, a self-employed handyman, and Mrs Pennerman, a cook, initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, but later changed their pleas to guilty. Mr Pennerman, who operates a restaurant in Freeport, pleaded guilty.
According to the particulars, sometime around 8.35am on March 7, Clement Campbell, an officer with the Department of Marine Resources, made a complaint to the police about the unlawful possession of a marine turtle by Pinder, after a video surfaced online of a man killing a loggerhead turtle by beating it repeatedly on the head.
The prosecutors said as a result of information received, police went to the Drop Take Out Restaurant where they recovered 11 bags of turtle meat weighing some 62 pounds, and subsequently arrested the Pennermans.
Magistrate Claude asked the accused to address the court.
Pinder, who was seen in a video hitting the turtle with a hammer, apologised for what he had done and said he did not know that the incident was being taped.
Mr Pennerman also apologised, saying it was a mistake.
“I want to apologise for the inconvenience – it was a mistake,” said Mr Pennerman. “I am the sole owner of the restaurant, and I take full responsibility. My wife works as the cook and I apologise and beg your pardon.”
Magistrate Claude told the accused that he needed to be aware of the country’s laws on marine resources and asked Mr Campbell to address the court on the laws currently on the books.
Mr Campbell informed the court that laws regarding the harvest of sea turtles were amended in 2009 making the capture and possession of green and loggerhead turtles illegal. He noted that before the 2009 amendment, both species were only harvested during the crawfish season from August 1- March 31.
He recalled that officials at the Bahamas National Trust had called for a ban on the capture and killing of turtles following a similar inhumane killing of a turtle sometime ago in New Providence.
“No one can harvest turtles in the Bahamas…and anyone caught will be prosecuted,” Mr Campbell warned. In addition to the Hawksbill turtle, he said the loggerhead and green turtles are now placed on the endangered species list.
Magistrate Claude asked each of the accused their occupation. Pinder said he was a self-employed handyman who looked for work daily, and Mrs Pennerman said she was a cook.
The magistrate gave the trio a conditional discharge and told them to make a declaration that they would not possess marine turtles.
She then advised the accused that if they did not agree with the fisheries laws to do something about it and agitate against it.
The judge also ordered the trio to perform 500 hours of community service by repairing the roof of the administration and Magistrate Court building in Eight Mile Rock.
She also ordered them to attend the Volunteer Intervention Programme every Saturday at 5.50am at the EMR Magistrate’s Court for lectures, including a lecture on the Fisheries Act on April 28 by Mr Campbell.
Magistrate Claude set the matter down for review on August 13.