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Inconsistent laws blamed for continued smuggling of turtle eggs

 | September 13, 2017

WWF-Malaysia says inadequate turtle protection laws in the peninsula lead to a high demand for turtle eggs there, which causes an increase in smuggling cases recorded in Sabah.

smuggling-turtle-eggs-lawKOTA KINABALU: National conservation organisation WWF-Malaysia has blamed inconsistent laws governing the sale and consumption of turtle eggs for their continued trade and smuggling in Sabah.

Marine Turtle Conservation officer Haziq Harith Abdul Hamid said this issue must be resolved to put an end to the problem.

“Only Sabah and Sarawak have legislation that totally protects marine turtles.

“In Peninsular Malaysia, turtle protection laws are inadequate and in some states, people are allowed to consume turtle eggs,” he said during his presentation at the US Maritime Environmental Security Workshop here today.

He said the demand for turtle eggs remained high in Peninsular Malaysia, and state authorities had on numerous occasions found boxes full of turtle eggs at airports, ready to be flown to West Malaysia.

Most of the eggs are smuggled into Sabah from neighbouring countries, particularly the Philippines. From Sabah, they are brought into Brunei, Kalimantan, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.

Aside from turtle egg poaching, there has also been an increase in turtle meat poaching in Sabah’s waters by foreign fishing vessels, especially from Vietnam and China’s Hainan district.

“In the past, these people would pay the locals to slaughter the turtles they collected. But now, for some reason, they bring these turtles to secluded islands, slaughter them there and then transfer the meat to the vessels.

“This activity is still rampant due to the increasing demand for turtle meat and turtle shells in foreign countries,” Haziq said.

The majority of the poachers’ catch is brought to Hainan to be processed before it is moved northward to mainland China.

It was also found that Vietnamese poachers would trade their catch with these Chinese vessels.

“Hainan is the most important sea turtle trading centre in China. Turtle shells are usually exported to Japan, which is the world’s largest bekko consumer,” Haziq said, referring to the tortoise shell trade in Japan.

“It is unfortunate that the sea turtle population in Sabah has been targeted to fulfil these demands.”

In 2007, Sabah caught the world’s attention after two Chinese trawlers were found in Malaysian waters with nearly 300 sea turtles on board.

While the activity appears to have decreased since then, authorities found some 30 sea turtle carcasses in Sabah’s waters last year.

Local communities have been blamed for the continued butchering of turtles for trade, which is seen as an easy way to make money.

It has also been reported that foreign poachers, believed to be part of a large syndicate, have started arming themselves and are becoming more organised in executing their operations.

In 2015, Sabah formed a special task force to curb turtle poaching. Led by the Sabah Wildlife Department, it conducts strategic joint patrolling in poaching or smuggling hot spots.

Its members include the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), fisheries department, police, navy and WWF.

Sabah, whose economy relies on its growing tourism industry, has been using the sea turtles in many of its tourism advertisements.

Report: China demand sees rampant turtle killing in Sabah

Philippine police arrest rare sea turtle poachers


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