Wednesday, December 7

‘Turtle deaths not due to scientific research method’


KOTA KINABALU: There is no evidence to back claims that a scientific research method has led to turtle deaths in Pulau Mabul waters off Semporna, according to Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew.

Nevertheless, she said, the scientists involved would make appropriate changes to the method for the additional safety of turtles.

Christina, who is also state Tourism, Culture and Environment minister, said the public university concerned would continue its successful collaboration with a resort in Mabul with regard to public awareness, education and conservation of sea turtles at the island.

“The major anthropological threats to the sea turtles in Sabah, which are especially prevalent in Mabul are identified as poaching, plastic pollution and boat strikes,” she said in a statement here yesterday.

Recently, professional divers voiced their concern about a method used in the process of tagging turtles by researchers at Mabul.

Semporna Professional Divers Association deputy president Dahlan Maizin said a recent tagging process used in Mabul waters involved a technique of using lift bags to bring out turtles. The dive masters and instructors found dead turtles with ropes tied around them, but the group were unsure whether it was related to research or the illegal capture of the species.

Christina said a roundtable discussion was organised by the Sabah Wildlife Department with the scientists, resort management and related NGOs to find a way forward for the sea turtle research project in Pulau Mabul.

She said the Mabul sea turtle project which commenced in 2013 recorded over one thousand turtle captures until 2019, many of which were repeat captures from which valuable growth, health and genetic data had been obtained.

Each turtle that is caught is tagged to give it a unique identification number for long-term monitoring, she said.

Christina said the Sabah Wildlife Department is working closely with the Marine Police and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in efforts to apprehend and charge poachers, as well as deter others from committing the crimes.

She said clean-up programmes and awareness about the dangers of discarding plastic have been conducted for school students as well as the general public.

“Sea turtles need to surface to breathe and may collide with fast-moving boats, therefore it is highly recommended that boats lower their speed to four kilometres per hour in the shallow areas where turtles forage,” she said.

Sea turtles are protected in Sabah under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. — Bernama