Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Prosecute Turtle Poachers

For the second time in 72 hours, marine turtles have been seized from Chinese fishing boats in Sabah's waters carrying a cargo of 220 Green and Hawksbill turtles on 28 March 2007. The first boat was apprehended on 26 March with 72 marine turtles of the same two species and six people were arrested.
WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia applaud the success of the Sabah Marine Police and encourage them and other enforcement agencies to continue these efforts. Chris R. Shepherd, the Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia says, "We urge the authorities to prosecute these poachers to the full extent of the law. If there is no deterrent, killing of these endangered species will continue".
According to the Sabah Marine Police, the fishermen are going to be prosecuted under the Fisheries Act (1985, Section 15), and under the Wildlife Enactment (1997, Section 41।4). All species of marine turtles are protected under these laws. Violations of the Wildlife Enactment carry a penalty up to MYR 50,000 and/or five years in jail.
WWF-Malaysia's Chief Technical Officer (Borneo Programme) Dr Rahimatsah Amat urges the authorities to prevent these ships from entering and operating in Malaysian waters before they get the chance to catch turtles.
Marine turtles are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which stipulates that no marine turtles may be taken across international borders, except under very special circumstances, with permits, and not for commercial trade.
Hawksbill and Green turtles are among the five species in Malaysia that are under threat by killing and trade, which are major reasons for the continual decline of marine turtles in the country. The number of turtles seized on 28 March is larger than the total annual estimated nesting population found in Malacca-a serious depletion to the already declining numbers.
Marine turtle conservation in Southeast Asia is one of the top ten burning issues for global marine turtle conservation, according to the State of the Worlds Sea Turtle report issued in 2006। This is not the first time fishermen from China have been apprehended in this region for poaching marine turtles. In May 2004, marine police arrested 16 fishermen from Hainan for poaching after discovering about 160 dead endangered sea turtles aboard a trawler. In 2005, more than 100 marine turtles were seized from a Hainan trawler which encroached into Malaysian waters off Labuan. On 19 March 2005 a Chinese boat was apprehended with Green and Hawksbill Turtles in Berau, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. On 17 June 2006, chinese vessel was caught off Sabah and Palawan with marine turtles.
In response to the rising number of such cases in Southeast Asia, authorities from the ten ASEAN countries have launched the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) to improve domestic and cross-border efforts to stop illegal wildlife trade.
WWF-Malaysia hopes that the Indonesian, Malaysian, and Philippines governments will highlight this issue of foreign fleets killing turtles during their April Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Annual Tri-national Committee Meeting in Kota Kinabalu.
WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia urge the authorities to release the remaining live turtles into the wild as soon as possible, to prevent further loss to the already declining wild population.

No comments: