A string of recent poaching busts in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge have shown the persistence of the illegal hunting problem in the biologically rich mudflats of the area’s West Pond.
The busts additionally suggest that the U.S. Park Police is having some success in tracking the culprits. Though gathering turtles and clams in the marshy areas around the bay has not ceased, Dan Mundy Jr., of Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, says that it’s a step in the right direction.
The Chronicle previously reported that in mid-June the Park Police responded to a group of poachers on Terrapin Point, an area south of West Pond and issued summonses to two individuals who were gathering turtles.
Reports that the National Park Service sent to the Chronicle show that throughout June and July Park Police have made five such busts in the wildlife refuge.
Most recently, an individual was arrested on July 10 for illegal clamming. A nearby resident who talked to the park officers who made the bust claimed that he was informed that the culprits had attempted to gather about 800 clams. An NPS spokesperson could not confirm the number of clams in the incident.
On July 6, two individuals were issued citations for possession of undersized crabs from the refuge. Two days earlier, a poacher was arrested for taking undersized crabs from the park.
Over two nights in June that the Chronicle previously reported on, the two individuals were issued citations for attempting to gather 20 turtles from Terrapin Point, an area south of West Pond where the low tide exposes rich mudflats teaming with aquatic life.
“I don’t think we’ve turned the tide so to speak yet ... but I think they’re stepping it up. I would hope that it has to be a continued presence and it has to be multijurisdictional,” Mundy said.
The environmentalist has asked for a concerted response between the Park Police, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYPD to send a message that poaching will not be tolerated.
The volume that Mundy has been seeing leads him to believe that there may be a big commercial market for the poached turtles and clams. Anecdotally, he said, he’s heard about unregulated wet markets in Queens and Brooklyn that sell everything from eels to turtles.
He added that parks officers whom he had been in contact with about the incidents believe that the culprits may be selling the turtles internationally. After issuing the recent summonses, Mundy said the police have been cross-referencing the names with a national database that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service keeps.
“We just scratched the surface. We really need to get it out there,” Mundy said.