Malaysia: Turtles face bittersweet fate

ARNOLD LOH The Star 27 Dec 15;

BALIK PULAU: The plight of the turtles is world’s apart at the northern and southern ends of Penang.

The north is a veritable haven for the creatures. More that 8,000 green turtle eggs were discovered in 32 nests along the unpopulated Pantai Kerachut this year.

The future for the endangered marine reptiles, however, looks gloomier at the southern end of island. Only 70 eggs from one Olive-Ridley turtle landing were saved in Teluk Kumbar this year.

“Last year, it was zero. In 2013, we saved 150 eggs from three nests in Teluk Kumbar,” Penang Turtle Sanctuary officer Mohd Syahrulnizam Ismail said yesterday.

He said to boost Penang’s Olive-Ridley turtle landings and recovery of eggs, the Fisheries Department would reward those who report landings, to enable eggs to be saved from next year.

“Those who report turtle landings in Penang by calling the department at 04-657 2777 or its monitoring base in Teluk Kumbar at 04-649 3371, will be paid RM3 to RM4 per turtle egg saved,

“The Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul beaches are historically visited by Olive-Ridley turtles and there are many fishing villages along the coastline.

There is a possibility that some of the villagers poach the eggs instead of reporting the turtle landings,” Mohd Syahrulnizam said when commenting on claims by fishermen that Teluk Kumbar was a hotspot for turtle landings.

He said although coastline development and sea pollution also affected turtle landing sites, egg poaching had also caused the wide gap in turtle egg finds between the north and south sides of the island.

The fishermen told Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) chairman Datuk Irmohizam Ibrahim at the Sungai Batu fishing village yesterday that the sea off the southern coast of Penang island was a breeding ground for turtles, prawns and many types of shellfish.

“We urge the federal and state governments to carefully study the marine environment there in view of the plans to reclaim up to three islands here,” Irmohizam said after meeting about 30 fishermen who represented the Southern Penang Fishermen Association.

There are 1,700 registered fishermen operating along the coast from Balik Pulau to Teluk Kumbar.

The reclamation off the southern coast was proposed recently to raise funds for transportation projects including a light rail transit line, monorail, tram line and new roads, under the RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan.

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