The death of two endangered Atlantic Green Sea Turtles on South Padre Island is now being investigated by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The case had initially been investigated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. But because the sea turtles are considered endangered, the case is now in the hands of the National Marines Fisheries.
The investigation was turned over to federal authorities on Saturday.
“We investigate endangered species act violations so we are investigating that information,” said Charles Tyer, assistant special agent-in-charge of the National Marine Fisheries Service, of the Southeast Division.
State authorities received a tip regarding the catching, killing and filleting of the sea turtles which resulted in the catching of the individuals involved.
Tyer said because it is so early in the investigation he cannot provide too much information on the case, but did say those responsible for the deaths of the turtles could face federal charges.
“They could face charges for violation of the endangered species act which has both civil and criminal penalties. They could receive either of those or both,” Tyer said.
State authorities found the individuals in possession of sea turtle shells. They said “trying to conceal the meat, the individuals put it in a plastic bag in the sand dunes. The contents of the bag appeared to be meat from two sea turtles, which included two sets of turtle hind and fore flippers.”
According to Worldwildlife.org, the sea turtles are considered endangered because they are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.
Tyer said it is uncommon to see cases involving endangered sea turtles.
“We have lots of investigations but I would not say a lot of them are of this type of violation,” he said.