Malaysia: Green turtles in peril from fishing gear

Farik Zolkepli The Star 6 Apr 12;

KUALA TERENGGANU: The effort to save the green turtles is in peril as at least 11 dead turtles have been washed ashore in the state in the first two months this year.

WWF Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said reports from the state Fisheries department as well as from the public showed the carcasses of green turtles washed ashore in the beaches in Marang, Dungun, Kemaman, Kuala Terengganu and Setiu.

“We believe the latest turtle deaths were due to them being caught in illegal fishing gear.

“The carcasses discovered had the same conditions and marks consistent of interaction with such gears,” he said in a statement recently.

Dr Dionysius said five of the carcasses in Kemaman, which were discovered by a local fisherman, had nylon ropes and rock tied to it.

“We believe the turtles had been killed and subsequently sunk to destroy any evidence of the heinous act.

“The placing of illegal nets along the shoreline has also been suspected to attribute to death of many turtles in recent years,” he said.

He added that there were also cases where some of the turtles were found with its skulls crushed.

“Conservation efforts would come to waste if more turtles die in this manner.

“Furthermore, turtles have eco-tourism potential and if they are killed, such turtle-based tourism activities will be adversely affected,” he said.

Dr Dionysius called on improving relations between fishermen and turtle conservationists in order to reduce turtle-fishery conflict.

“Enhanced engagement will contribute towards a better understanding on how turtle conservation impacts the fisheries sector.

“A healthy turtle population will only lead towards a healthy ocean and a more sustainable fishing industry,” he said.

Dr Dionysius said illegal ray nets, locally known as pukat pari have a mesh size of more than 25.4cm and have been suspected as the main cause of turtle entanglement and subsequent drowning.

“A total of 134 ray nets were seized in Terengganu waters by the Fisheries department between April and September last year.

“It is an offence to use such nets under the Fisheries (Prohibition of Method Fishing) Regulations 1980 but more stringent enforcement is needed to ensure the use of illegal fishing gear is effectively reduced,” he said.