Guam – United States Attorney Alicia Limtiaco presented a special award Friday to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Special Agent Charles (Chuck) A. Raterman in recognition of his work to establish a Sea Turtle reward program for this region.
The poaching of sea turtles is prevalent on Guam. It is a challenge to prosecute such violators because they typically reside in the smaller villages on the southern part of Guam, where hunting and killing sea turtles is a source of increased status. A network of friends and relatives are often aware of their activities and they maintain a traditional code of silence as to the violators. This reward program was initiated to raise awareness of the effect of this poaching and to break that code of silence, encouraging citizens to come forward, even if it might involve persons within their social or village network.
[L-R: First Assistant Steve Sinnott, Civil Chief Mikel Schwab, U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco, NOAA Special Agent Chuck Raterman and AUSA Karon Johnson]
This is NOAA’s first permanent reward program for turtles, known as “haggan” in the Chamorro language. Chuck created flyers urging people to be “Haggan Heroes,” posted them at mayors= offices, stores, charter dive shops and fish markets on Guam and Saipan. He has appeared at numerous Saturday public outreach events sponsored by law enforcement, as well as fishing derbies, career days and local festivals, radio and school appearances. He has enlisted the support of the Guam Department of Wildlife Resources, whose agents have assisted him in distributing more than 200 posters around this region.
To date, three individuals have qualified for this $1,000 reward by providing information that has led to the arrest and conviction of turtle poachers. We are hopeful that more people will come forward to help us put an end to this destructive poaching, so this species has a chance to recover.