Malaysia: Dead green turtle found covered in oil slick in Pulau Tioman

MEI MEI CHU and ANDREW SIA The Star 30 Aug 17;

PETALING JAYA: A dead juvenile turtle was found in Pulau Tioman covered in oil suspected to be from the collision between a U.S. warship and a merchant vessel in the waters off Johor.

Reef Check Malaysia Programme manager Alvin Chelliah said the green turtle that washed ashore on Tuesday at Kampung Air Batang was completely covered in oil and is believed to have suffocated.

"It had been floating dead in the open sea in the oil slick," said Alvin, adding that the oil slicks were washed ashore as the island has been experiencing strong winds from the south west.

He said this was the third oil spill affecting Pulau Tioman this year.

Large patches of black oil were seen on the beach and tar balls - semi-solid clumps of oil - were seen drifting towards the island.

"We suspect the tar balls came from the ships," Alvin said.

Reef Check is currently with officials from the Department of Environment, Pahang Marine Park Department, Tioman Development Authority and the insurance companies representing the sunken ships collecting samples of the oil for verification.

In April, a group of divers on an excursion were covered in oil as they came in contact with tar balls while surfacing from a dive.

"We need to do something quickly to solve this recurring issue, especially the tar balls as they are found every year," Alvin said, adding that it was pertinent to identify the source of the oil.

Oil slicks had also affected other islands in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, posing a danger to corals and other marine life.

In May, it was reported that oil dumped off the waters of Pulau Redang covered some 300 meters of shoreline with a layer of thick, black oil.

Sea turtle dies in oil slick believed to be from ship collision
The Star 31 Aug 17;

KUANTAN: A sea turtle has died after being enveloped by an oil spill off Pulau Tioman, said Reef Check Malaysia programme manager Alvin Chelliah.

He said he was sent a photograph of the dead turtle covered in oil and was told that residents in the affected area have buried the carcass.

The spill was spotted near Pulau Tulai and Kampung Air Batang on Tuesday, he said.

“I suspect it is from the collision between an oil tanker and a US Navy destroyer off Johor recently.

“Strong winds and currents may have pushed the slick towards Pulau Tioman. We have informed the authorities and they will make a verification,” Alvin said.

The incident comes after the appearance of tar balls near the popular dive spot early last month.

“The tar balls were semi-solid and we could pick them up easily,” he said, adding that the oil slick posed a bigger problem.

State Environment Department director Rosli Zul has sent officers to investigate the incident while Pahang Fisheries Department director Datuk Adnan Hussain said it was gathering more information on the death of the turtle.

“Based on our records, there has not been any turtle deaths due to an oil spill since 2010,” said Adnan.

He said the turtle in the photograph appears to be about seven or eight years old but could not identify its species.

About 98% of those in Pahang waters are green sea turtles while the rest are the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles, he added.

On Aug 21, the USS John S. McCain collided with Liberian-registered Alnic MC; 10 US sailors were killed in the incident.