Two Florida men were sentenced to prison after officials say they stole hundreds of sea turtle eggs from a St. Lucie County beach last year.
Carl L. Cobb, 60, and Raymond Saunders, 50, both of Riviera Beach, were convicted of transporting sea turtle eggs for the purpose of sale. Saunders was convicted of one count while Cobb was convicted of two counts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Court records indicate a concerned citizen reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that a man was disturbing sea turtle nests on North Hutchinson Island on May 5, 2017.
An investigation found more than 200 eggs were missing from two sea turtle nests, and that Cobb was responsible, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Officials spotted Cobb and Saunders take another 469 eggs from nests on the same island on May 24. The men were arrested while they were taking the eggs to Palm Beach County, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Marine biologists relocated the eggs in hopes they would yield some hatchlings.
Cobb and Saunders were each sentenced to seven months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $227 in restitution to the State of Florida, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
It’s estimated tens of thousands of sea turtle eggs are stolen a year, due to a black market for the eggs in South Florida that can fetch sellers $3 to $5 an egg, wildlife officials told the Sun Sentinel. In some cultures, sea turtle eggs are considered a delicacy, or can be used for jewelry or medicines.