The killing of sea turtles in Semporna – James M. Alin

[Malaysia] On Friday January 15, 2016, the pictures of six carcasses of sea turtle went viral via social media. At least six carcasses were seen floating between Laut Silapag and Laut Sanggaban, which are part of the Semporna Priority Conservation Area (PCA).

It is quite a distance from the seaweed farming areas of Kerindingan Island, Semporna. Dr Juanita Joseph of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu who conducted the Population Census of turtle on the Semporna islands in 2009 saw the close up picture and said they are probably Green turtles.

A close up look at the badly decomposed carcasses. The dead turtles were tied up with nylon ropes. The incident on January 15, 2016. – Pic courtesy of James M. Alin, January 19, 2016.
A close up look at the badly decomposed carcasses. The dead turtles were tied up with nylon ropes. The incident on January 15, 2016. – Pic courtesy of James M. Alin, January 19, 2016.

The person who posted the pictures on his FB wall in fact wanted his friends to share the post in order to attract the attention of the authorities, particularly the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD). He wanted the culprits to be brought to justice.

The usual suspects are the Sea Gypsies (Palau) and according to him, are refugees from the Philippines. He wrote that the sea turtles were poached, tied with ropes while the shell and non-edible parts were discarded after the meat was kept in their “house” before taking it back to the Philippines.

A long line of seaweed farming together with floats made of PET bottles on the surface. – Pic courtesy of James M. Alin, January 19, 2016.
A long line of seaweed farming together with floats made of PET bottles on the surface. – Pic courtesy of James M. Alin, January 19, 2016.

What is interesting here is not so much his outright and extreme prejudice accusation against the semi nomadic Sea gypsies but whether the SWD office in Tawau is able to solve this issue. Will the culprits at least be brought to justice if not jailed?

Probably not. No one was arrested two years ago when dead turtles were found floating near Si Amil island on August 9.

On April 16, 2014, four carcasses of sea turtles were found floating between Bum-Bum Island and Kulapuan Island, all within the Semporna PCA. The pictures went viral shortly after they were posted on social media.

That was not the first time angry members of the public resorted to social media rather than reporting the incident to SWD. The article, published by Borneo Post and online news portals the next day, entitled “Another Merciless Killing of Sea Turtles in Sabah”, lined up three usual suspects, the seaweed farmers, artisanal fishermen and commercial fishing vessels.

The carcasses of turtles found floating between Bum-Bum island and Kulapuan Island on April 16, 2014 similar to the dead turtles in the recent incident.
The carcasses of turtles found floating between Bum-Bum island and Kulapuan Island on April 16, 2014 similar to the dead turtles in the recent incident.

A week later, the Seaweed Farmers Association of Semporna clarified the matter and said that the association members would never harm, what more kill the turtles even if the turtles were an annoying pest.

Furthermore, according to the association, sea turtles causes devastation to seaweed farming, spread diseases and bad weather. WWF-Malaysia said that the Kudat team was working closely with SWD to investigate allegations on seaweed farmers killing turtles.

“We will wait for the conclusion of the investigation first,” said Sabah Tourism Minister.

The result of the said investigation is yet to be made public. Wildlife Officer Mohd Soffian Abu Bakar reported that his office made two arrests in 2014 and 2013 in Semporna for the illegal selling of turtle eggs. This was reported in the Daily Express on August 22, 2014.

He said that under Section 41(1) Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, a fine amounting to RM50, 000 or five years imprisonment or both shall be imposed on anyone convicted of killing or harvesting shell, meat or eggs of sea turtle. Reading the riot act alone is not going to deter or reduce the crime against turtles. – January 19, 2016.

 

Photo: A close up look at the badly decomposed carcasses. The dead turtles were tied up with nylon ropes. The incident on January 15, 2016. – Pic courtesy of James M. Alin, January 19, 2016.

View original article at: The killing of sea turtles in Semporna – James M. Alin

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