(Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, Bahamas) – During the months of June and July if you drove past Turtle Pond corner with your windows open like I did, you would have been hit in the nostrils with a nauseating stench of decaying turtle carcasses. A tragic result of man interfering with nature.
But it started out as a splendid experiment and for some time it was the envy of all who saw it.
In the late 1950’s Mr. Edwin Burrows , a farmer and an artist was inspired to turn this deep salt water lake into a productive showcase that would provide food and recreation. Uncle Ed obtained a lease from the Government to facilitate his vision and in the years following transferred from the sea large amounts of fish and turtles to Turtle Pond. The fish grew extremely fast and reached sizes that could only be found in the Atlantic Ocean. We were amazed at the size of grunts that we were used to catching that were about six to eight inches in length compared to those that grew in the lake which measured twelve to fifteen inches long. There was one notable thing about the fish that grew in the pond, their skin was thicker and curled up when fried.
Uncle Ed soon noticed that the turtles were also rapidly maturing and needed to lay their eggs in a sandy beach as they do in the sea. The pond is completely surrounded by mangrove bushes and so he cleared a small area adjacent to the dangerous corner and deposited a large load of sand to create an artificial beach. Turtles that live in the ocean are incubated on large sandy beaches from which the newly hatched crawl to the sea and return after many years to lay their eggs to continue the cycle of reproduction. This small beach was inadequate by natural standards and so he would gather the eggs and transfer them to a hatchery that he built within the small arcade that remains to the present. He also had a holding tank there to keep the hatchlings until they had grown enough to avoid being eaten by the large fish that now lived in the pond.
The artificial beach worked well enough for a few years while Ed was well and able to maintain it, but he had an accident which left him without the full use of an arm and he was no longer able to continue the demanding upkeep the pond required. The small beach melted away and was overtaken by the mangrove bushes that were there originally. The female turtles continue to search the area during the months of Spring but find no sand, no place to lay their eggs, and because they are in an unnatural environment they have no alternatives; they crawl into the mangrove bush roots that form a natural barrier and they become ensnared by them and there die.
This is a terrible way to end so noble an experiment, started by a visionary Bahamian who lacked the required backing to make it an on going adventure and success. That is, if we let it end as is. When I heard recently that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had placed a ban on the commercial harvesting of Sea Turtles in the Bahamas and that our fishermen were now ‘criminals’ for catching creatures that God has provided for our food, I wrote to the Minister and suggested to him that there are at least two salt water lakes in the Central Eleuthera area that can be used as Hatcheries for sea turtles. This could be done with a minimal amount of funding, be used as a training venue for our young students, and repopulate the depleted sea stocks.
Fifty years ago my uncle had a vision; what is apparent is that no one else shares that vision, and so the stench of rotting turtle carcasses is an annual reminder that ‘ With out a vision, the people perish’.
Perhaps you are experiencing something similar in your area, well, it is time to rise up and do something about the situation, we can no longer remain silent and complacent (assigning all problems to someone else). In my correspondence to the Minister of Fisheries I pointed out to him that it is wicked to ban our fishermen from harvesting sea turtles while nothing is done to replenish the depleted stocks in the sea. It is evil to do nothing.
Jesus told the story of three servants (Ministers) who were given three separate amounts of money to invest. The first reported his returns because he doubled his money, the second did the same. However, the third servant brashly informed his master that nothing was done with the money he held but it was kept safe. This third servant was condemned to hellish punishment because he did nothing. You see, doing nothing is not an option, it is wicked, it is evil.
Mr. Andrew Burrows writes a regular opinion column on a wide range of topics. Opinions of contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of The Eleutheran, its management or owners.