A Georgia man plead guilty Wednesday morning to federal charges of tampering with a protected sea turtle nest.
The incident happened last summer in Gulf Shores, Alabama when Kelly Ard admitted to investigators he took the sea turtle eggs and then threw them in a trash can inside his condominium complex. The eggs were recovered as evidence.
Ard was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $5000 with two years of probation.
Sea turtle egg incubation takes about 60 days, but since the temperature of the sand governs the speed at which the embryos develop, the hatching period can cover a broad range. Essentially, the hotter the sand surrounding the nest, the faster the embryos will develop. Cooler sand has a tendency to produce more males, with warmer sand producing a higher ratio of females.
Most states have laws against harming sea turtle eggs but federal law provides (and criminal penalties as severe as $100,000 and a year in prison) if you “take, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, or capture any marine turtle, turtle nest, and/or eggs, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.”
Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and over-exploitation. They also face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. Climate change has an impact on turtle nesting sites. It alters sand temperatures, which then affects the sex of hatchlings.