When I first arrived in the Virgin Islands, turtle sightings were rather rare. At that time turtles were hunted for their meat, their shells and their eggs. A 1973 law, protected the turtles in US water and prohibited the harvesting of their eggs. Since then, most other Caribbean nations have either banned or limited turtle hunting and now, at least for the Green and Hawksbill species, they seem to be rather plentiful
Nonetheless, the illegal poaching of turtles continues to some degree and some nations like the British Virgin Islands have established a legal season for hunting turtles for subsistence purposes. In the BVI turtles are used primarily for their shells as decorations, while their meat is consumed mostly by indigenous islanders.
Turtle season In the BVI runs from December 1 through March 31 and allows for the harvesting of both Hawksbill and Green Turtles, but hunting Loggerhead or Leatherback turtles is prohibited and the collection of turtle eggs is banned.
The hunting, storage, and slaughtering of turtles is a cruel business and in today’s modern Caribbean where turtles serve better as tourist attractions than for decorations or dinner, many people would like to see Turtle hunting completely prohibited. A Facebook group has been established to try to End Sea Turtle Hunting Season in the British Virgin Islands
BVI Law Concerning Turtles
1) No person shall
(a) disturb, remove from the fishery waters, expose for sale, sell, purchase or have in his possession any turtle’s eggs;
(b) interfere with any turtle nest or turtle that is nesting;
(c) remove from the fishery waters, expose for sale, sell, purchase or have in his possession any undersized turtle or catch a leatherback turtle or loggerhead turtle on which there is a moratorium;
(d) set within 100 meters of the shores of the Virgin Islands any net, seine or other article for the purpose or with the intention of fishing for, catching or taking a turtle; and
(e) fish for, remove from the fishery waters, or at any time have in his possession, expose for sale, sell or purchase any turtle from 1st April to 30th November in every year or as otherwise stated by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette and in a newspaper circulating the Territory.
(2) In this regulation.
(a) “turtle” means the whole or any part of a turtle;
(b) “undersized” means a carapace (shell) length less than
(i) 24 inches for green turtle
(ii) 15 inches for hawksbill