Nearly 300 sea turtle eggs were returned to the beach and reburied Friday after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission caught a man poaching them from a beach in St. Lucie County.
James Odel McGriff, 55, of Riviera Beach, was arrested and booked into the St. Lucie County jail.
“We take these matters very seriously,” said Capt. Jeff Ardelean, a supervisor in the FWC’s West Palm Beach office. “Stopping those who attempt to poach and commercialize our endangered species is one of our highest priorities.”
Friday night, a concerned citizen called the FWC after she saw what looked like a man stealing sea turtle eggs at the Diamond Sands beach off A1A. She was able to provide a description of the man and his vehicle.
FWC officers and investigators responded and talked with the man. After using a K-9 to track where he had been, they located a disturbed sea turtle nest and a backpack full of sea turtle eggs.
This was not the first time McGriff had been caught for poaching turtle eggs. In 2002, he was arrested after selling 12 eggs to an undercover officer and possessing 27 dozen pre-bagged eggs for sale.
“We are committed to stopping those who intentionally take advantage of our state’s fish and wildlife resources,” Ardelean said. The FWC is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on this case and federal charges are pending.
Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on Earth. All five species in Florida are either endangered or threatened. The Marine Turtle Protection Act stipulates that it is illegal to injure, harm, harass, capture or attempt to capture any marine turtles, eggs or nests. If you know of or suspect any violations, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-3922 or text Tip@MyFWC.com. For more information on how you can help protect sea turtles by visiting MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.