Malaysia: Terengganu boosts turtle conservation

Rahmat Khairulrijal and Ashraf Hafizuddin New Straits Times 7 Dec 12;

NEW STEPS: More hatcheries, ban on turtle eggs trade proposed

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Terengganu Department of Fisheries has pledged to expand its turtle awareness programme in line with Visit Terengganu 2013.

Its director, Abdul Khalil Abdul Karim, said more activities would be held for the public such as road shows and exhibitions at the turtle sanctuaries.

He said the Rantau Abang Turtle Conservation and Information Centre had hatched 95 to 98 per cent of turtle eggs under its hatchery programme.

"The department plans to enhance the conservation programme by setting up more turtle hatcheries as we only have 12 in the state."

Turtles that land in the state's shores comprise the leatherback, green, hawksbill and olive ridley species.

"We are collaborating with local universities and non-governmental organisations to promote turtle conservation among the younger generation," he said, adding that Pulau Redang and Kemaman were common spots for turtle landings.

Khalil said the department's awareness programmes had been well-received by the public.

"Last year, we received RM550,000 from the state and Federal Government, which allowed us to hatch 377,494 turtle eggs."

On the sale of turtle eggs at Pasar Payang in Terengganu, he said the department had no power to impose a ban on turtle egg trading as it was legal in the state.

However, he said, there were plans to amend the Fisheries Act 1985 to ban the trading of turtle eggs, which was discussed at a joint meeting with state directors in May last year.

"Only the sale of leatherback turtle eggs is banned in the state."

WWF-Malaysia urged the Federal Government to come up with better legal protection for this natural heritage through the federal laws.

Its Peninsular Malaysia seas communications officer, Nadiah Rosli, said the fund had sent a memorandum to the prime minister in 2010 with 100,000 signatures to support the ban on sale and trading of turtle eggs.

"Turtles are Terengganu's icons and the state government should take the lead in banning the sale of turtle eggs. This national heritage must be protected."

She also said the state government should consider listing more turtle nesting areas as sanctuaries.