Malaysia: Death knell for Hawksbill turtles

R.S.N. MURALI The Star 30 Jun 17;

MELAKA: The endangered Hawks­bill turtle population in Melaka that is being threatened by sea reclamation, hunting and habitat destruction, is facing another major threat – fishing nets.

Melaka Fishery Department officer Doreen Wee Siew Leen said 13 Hawksbills were found dead between January and June along the beach stretching from Kem Terendak in Sungai Udang to Kuala Linggi.

“Most of these deaths occurred when the turtles get entangled in fishing nets.

“We managed to nurse back to health two which were found alive on the beach and released them back to the sea,” she said yesterday.

Wee said the enforcement unit continues to patrol the identified hotspots to act against the culprits.

“Our main targets are those who drop their nets illegally along the marine path used by the turtle to their nesting spots,” she said.

Wee said illegal fishermen found deploying nets along the Melaka coastline would have their equipment seized on the spot and punitive actions taken against them.

“Our enforcement is keeping a close watch to stop these killings,” she said.

Wee said for the licensed fishermen, the department could only create awareness on the importance of protecting the turtle.

“We are constantly reminding our local fishermen on the importance of preserving the endangered sea turtle,” she said.

There were 4,570 turtle landings recorded between 2006 and 2016, with Pulau Upeh recording the highest landings of 704.

However, there were only 13 landings in Pulau Upeh in 2016, an island popular for turtle nesting, compared with 111 in 2011.

“This reveals that Pulau Upeh is losing its appeal to the Hawksbill due to various factors,” she said.

Surprisingly, the Padang Kemun­ting beachfront recorded an all-time high of 118 landings in 2016 compared with 55 to 107 annual landings between 2006 and 2015.

Wee said the coastal waters of Melaka were the focus of Hawksbill turtle to land and lay eggs, and if the habitat along the beach was affected, the number of turtle landings would also be affected.

She said the rangers appointed by the department to collect turtle eggs along the shorelines were doing their task well especially during nesting period; the eggs were sent to Turtle Conservation and Informa­tion Centre in Padang Kemunting to be hatched and released to the na­tural habitat.

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