Strict enforcement needed to stop turtle-slaughter


Utusan Express, New Sabah Times, 8 May 2004



KUCHING May 7 - Strict enforcement of the existing wildlife protection laws is needed to stop the slaughter of protected turtles, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Adenan Satem said Friday.


He said the state authorities had to work closely with the marine police and the Fisheries Department as they had limited control over the conservation efforts for the protected species.


"For example, Sarawak, which was the first state to implement the environmentally friendly concrete reef ball project in its waters, has recorded a reduced number of deaths of turtles caught in fishing nets," he told reporters after meeting officials from the Sarawak Forestry Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd (SFC) at his residence in Santubong, about 35 km from here.


Present were Sarawak Forest Department Director Datuk Cheong Ek Choon and SFC deputy general manager (Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation) Desmond Dick Cotter.


Early this week it was reported that 130 turtle carcasses and three live turtles, which were suspected to have been netted in Malaysian waters, were found on a China-registered trawler near Mengalum, about 20 nautical miles from Kota Kinabalu.


Apart from the enforcement of the federal marine law, turtles are totally protected under the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Act 1998, Wildlife Protection Rule and supported by the Turtle Trust Ordinance.


Meanwhile, Cheong said there had been a marked increase of about 30 percent in the number of turtle landings this year from last year at the three turtle islands - Pulau Talang-Talang Besar, Pulau Talang-Talang Kecil and Satang Island near here - due to conservation efforts which began 30 years ago.


Unlike the turtle landing beaches in Trengganu, he said, these islands were out of bounds to the public to allow the department and the Sarawak Museum to conduct on-going conservation studies and hatchery projects.


Turtles, which nested at the sites, were also fitted with satellite tracking devices to monitor their whereabouts once they left for feeding grounds off Sabah and Indonesia, he said.


On the meeting, Adenan said his ministry was discussing ways to further enhance cooperation with Sarawak in various fields of forest management, including remote sensing and geographical information system and the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) scheme.


The ministry would continue to provide funding for research in forest management, wildlife management and timber utilization to the relevant authorities such as the Sarawak Forest Department, which had been allocated RM62 milllion under the current Malaysia plan, he said.


MEANWHILE, in KUALA TERENGGANU, the Turtle and Marine Eco-system Centre (Tumec) here is concerned over the mass killing of turtles for their medicinal value, off Sabah waters, as it may endanger the survival of the species, said its head Kamaruddin Ibrahim.


On May 2, Sabah Marine Police detained 16 fishermen from China, in Mengalum, 20 neutical miles off Kota Kinabalu after discovering remains of 133 turtles on their boats.


According to Kamaruddin, it was possible that some of the turtles killed, may have landed in the past along the beaches in Terengganu to lay eggs.


A study of the migration habits of sea turtles conducted by Tumec, showed that turtles which laid eggs in Terengganu would go back to their feeding grounds in the Sulu Sea.


"There is a strong possibility that after laying eggs in Terengganu, the turtles were heading back to the Sulu Sea, when they were caught and killed," he said here Friday.


Kamaruddin said based on the pictures made available, the killed turtles belonged to the hawksbill and green turtle species.


The coasts of Sabah are the most popular landing spots in the world, for hawksbill which is an endangered species.


"We hope the authorities will step up surveillance to prevent the species from disappearing from the eco-system," he said. Bernama