THREE endangered green turtles were released back into the sea last Thursday after being rescued from poachers at Salybia Beach on Wednesday.
Honorary game wardens attached to the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division, in a joint effort with the Matura police, held and charged three poachers and retrieved the turtles after executing a 'sting' operation on the beach.
The team, tipped off to the illegal capture of the protected animals and the sale of their meat on the beach, found the men with three live and one dead turtle in their nets.
The men had gone to retrieve their catch when the wardens and police moved in.
The area had been under surveillance by an interested party for two days before the operation.
The turtles were identified as belonging to the Green and Hawksbill varieties and a shell, net and the severed head of one of the animals were also seized.
The offenders were taken to Matura Police Station where charges were laid against them, according to breaches in the Wildlife Conservation Act and Fisheries Act, respectively.
The Express was told by one resident in the area that the illegal turtle trade is not unusual for that beach and has been going on for years during turtle nesting season, which begins in March and runs to September.
Residents hope Wednesday's arrests will deter further poaching activity, which they said also brings an "unwanted element" to the area at night.
All turtles are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act and it is illegal to capture, kill or trade in the live animals, their eggs or meat, according to the Fisheries Act, amended to that effect in 2011.