KUALA TERENGGANU, Jan 15 — The government has been urged to set up a special committee to take sea turtle conservation efforts more seriously and ensure the survival of the endangered animal.
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Institute of Oceanography and Environment, External Research Laboratory head Dr Mohd Uzair Rusli said the government should also provide an allocation and bring together experts from various government departments, universities, non-governmental organisations, the corporate sector and local fishing communities to support the conservation efforts.
He said the increasing number of sea turtle deaths of late has given a ‘signal’ that it was time for the government to be more serious in finding the actual answer to the cause of the mortality.
“We cannot jump to conclusions by just conducting a brief external examination of the turtle. An autopsy is necessary to determine the cause of death scientifically.
“There have been only two causes of death reported, namely plastic ingestion and drowning after being stuck in trawling nets. With the current scientific developments, we are actually able to determine the place and actual cause of death through ocean modelling,” he said when contacted by Bernama today.
Two green sea turtles were found dead at Pantai Batu Burok and Pantai Seberang Takir in Kuala Nerus yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths of the species this month in Terengganu to five.
Elaborating, Mohd Uzair said the establishment of the special committee was crucial because sea turtles which have a broad range of diets played an important role in maintaining the health and balance of the marine ecosystem.
“For instance, hawksbill turtles’ diet consists of jellyfish. However, a decline in the turtle species population can result in an increase in the number of jellyfish that will consume huge quantities of plankton and affect our fish stocks.
“Therefore, the conservation of sea turtles should be considered as important as efforts in ensuring the sustainability of the country’s fishing industry. With the increase in the number of turtle death cases, I believe there is an ongoing threat in the ocean that goes beyond our knowledge,” he said.