The Costa Rican National Police and Environment Ministry chased down a group of Costa Rican poachers at sea Wednesday afternoon for harpooning at least three green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), according to a statement from the Public Security Ministry.
Authorities rushed to get two boats prepared to pursue the alleged poachers after receiving a report that a group was harpooning sea turtles south of Tortuguero National Park off the Caribbean coast. The three suspects, identified with the last names Granados, Castellón and Arrieta, all from Limón, were seen throwing the sea turtles overboard as police closed in. Police were able to retrieve the reptiles and the three alleged poachers were arrested and sent to the prosecutor’s office in Guápiles.
The endangered sea turtles, weighing up to 120 kilograms each, suffered damage to their shells from the harpoons. Sea turtles cannot regulate their buoyancy when their shells are punctured, preventing them from hunting or swimming effectively.
“The officers saw when the turtles were thrown overboard with harpoons still stuck in them. Unfortunately we know that when they try to swim in the sea they die because of the damaged shell,” Tortuguero Police Chief Freddy Flores said in a statement.
All three turtles initially survived the ordeal and police have handed the animals over to a rescue center for treatment.
The three animals rescued Wednesday bring the total number of green sea turtles rescued this season to 10 as part of a more robust law enforcement strategy on Limón beaches.
Green sea turtles can weigh up to 320 kilograms (700 pounds). The creatures nest on Costa Rica’s Caribbean beaches from July to October and are often poached for their meat and eggs.