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Turtle trafficker will assist Jekyll officer
A man convicted of stealing endangered sea turtle eggs on Sapelo Island in McIntosh County will get a lesson on environmental awareness as part of his punishment.

Lewis Jackson Sr., 58, entered a guilty plea in February before Chief U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to taking 156 loggerhead sea turtle eggs in violation of the Lacey Act, which makes it unlawful for anyone to acquire, receive or transport loggerhead sea turtle eggs. Loggerheads are classified as an endangered species under federal law.

Jackson faces six months in prison and 156 hours of community service - one hour for each egg stolen.

He will spend his community service time on Jekyll Island, home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which rehabilitates injured and sick sea turtles, in hopes of instilling an appreciation for coastal environments and delicate ecosystems, said Anna Hall, communication specialist for the authority that oversees the state park.

Jackson will work with Phil Lyons, code compliance officer on the island and a former parole officer. Lyons is responsible for enforcing Jekyll's ordinances by ensuring that beach-goers are respectful of the island's environmental assets, like protected sand dunes and sea turtle nests.

"It's kind of a good match," Hall said.

After completing his 156 hours of community service, Jackson will tour the sea turtle center.

"He'll see the behind-the-scenes of everything they do there just to nail home the impact that human action can have on the environment," Hall said, adding this is the first time, to her knowledge, the authority has facilitated this kind of community service.

Jackson was arrested in May when Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement officers were alerted that a loggerhead nest on Sapelo Island had been emptied. Officers, along with canine units, inspected baggage on the ferry leaving Sapelo Island, accessible only by boat.

The search turned up 156 sea turtle eggs, as well as marijuana and a handgun, in a duffle bag possessed by a Jackson, a previously convicted felon.

Officers said they had reason to believe the eggs, which can net as much as $15 apiece on the black market, were packaged to be sold.

Jackson was arrested and the case was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

* Reporter Nikki Wiley writes about government, business and other local topics. Contact her at nwiley@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 321.



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