Penalties for killing protected species may be increased
Penalties for the killing of protected species may be increased in the wake of The Royal Gazette’s report last week on the killing of parrotfish, it was announced today.
Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, said he was outraged to learn of the killings, which were reported by a local diver hunting for lionfish off St George’s.
Mr Roban added: “I am very disappointed and distressed about this – it is wrong and illegal.
“I will be looking at increasing the penalties for the killing of any protected species, like parrotfish, and urge anyone with information about the person or persons responsible to come forward.”
Natalie Price appealed for an investigation last week after she found the butchered remains of five parrotfish off Battery Park in St George’s.
She took videos of the remains, which had been stripped of flesh and discarded.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it had launched an investigation into the incident.
A spokesman said parrotfish have been protected since 1993 and it was an offence to take, kill or sell parrotfish.
Offenders can be fined up to $50,000 and jailed for two years.
Drew Pettit, the director of the DENR, said: “Most parrotfish live on coral reefs, where they eat seaweed.
“Their feeding helps to keep the reef clean, ensuring that corals are not smothered by seaweed and that there is room for new coral larvae to attach.
“This allows our reefs to stay healthy and grow, providing habitat for other fish and invertebrates. As they graze, parrotfish also consume rock and dead coral, which is ground up and excreted as sand.”
Mr Pettit added: “A large parrotfish can produce hundreds of pounds of sand per year, which helps to build our world famous beaches.”
The department said that people should only buy fish from licensed commercial fishermen, who should provide a valid fisheries photo ID.
Anyone with information on suspicious fishing activity should report it to the Fisheries Wardens at 535-4615, the Bermuda Coast Guard at 294-0610, or the police at 211.