Leatherback Turtles Seen
Landing In Sarawak

Four rare landings of leatherback marine turtles have been reported in Sarawak this year.

Three of the landings were detected between the coasts of Tanjung Datu and Sematan in Kuching Division while the fourth was in Tanjung Lobang, Miri, said state Forest Department assistant director Oswald Braken Tisen  yesterday.

There are no records of such landings in Sarawak.  Most leatherback turtles nest in Terengganu.

He attributed the landings to state efforts to conserve marine turtles.

As part of its conservation programme, the state funded a project in which artificial reef balls were dropped on the seabed near Pulau Talang-Talang and Pulau Stang, off Sematan.

These two areas are resting places for marine turtles on their way to nesting grounds in the islands.

"The reef balls are environment-friendly and can last for 500 years.  Unlike used tyres, they do not produce toxic compounds," Tisen told reporters.

The state is the first in Asia to use reef balls in marine-turtle conservation in light of the declining population of the totally-protected species.

The balls deter illegal fishing by trawlers as nets get damaged.

Before the reef-ball project was launched two years ago, 50 to 60 d3ead marine turtles were reported yearly.

However, only three dead turtles were reported in Pulau Satang and none in Pulau Talang-Talang this year, he said.

"Another 200 reef balls will be dropped off Pulau Satang soon," said Tisen.

He said the project had benefited local fishermen who reported bigger catches of fish and prawns.

The state has set aside RM5mil under the Eighth Malaysia Plan for the reef-ball project.

Tisen said the department had increased monitoring of marine turtles via satellite-tracking and rediotelemetry.

This checks the resting places of turtles before they land for nesting.