According to the ChinaPlus website, China released its first batch of artificially-bred sea turtles near Huizhou in Guangdong province. 99 sea turtles in total have returned to the sea.
The National Huizhou Sea Turtle Reserve is about 80 kilometers east of Shenzhen and has a 1-kilometer-long beach. It was established in 1985, and has since witnessed a drop in the number of laying sea turtles – from more than 100 yearly in the 1980s to single digits now.
According to the China Daily, only a few sea turtles have laid eggs in recent years and there haven’y been anyone the first 9 months of 2016.
The reserve in Huizhou is the only known active laying ground remaining for sea turtles along the 18,000-kilometer coastline of the Chinese mainland, excluding Hong Kong.
The reserve hatches the eggs, nurtures the hatchlings, saves wounded turtles and raises public awareness through exhibitions about wildlife conservation.
Sea turtles take 20 or even 50 years to reach puberty, so it may take a while before an increase is seen.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released 10 green turtles seized in an earlier enforcement action in the southern waters of Hong Kong on Monday (November 15).
The 10 green turtles are among the 35 green turtles and one hawksbill turtle seized from a fish raft in Sok Kwu Wan Fish Culture Zone on September 30. The turtles were assessed by vets at Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) and have been looked after there with constant monitoring and veterinary care.
An AFCD spokesman said, “This is the largest batch sent to OPHK since it started helping to provide care for rescued sea turtles. The department is thankful to OPHK for making special arrangement to accommodate the sea turtles and the veterinarians and staff for taking care of them.”
The 10 green turtles weighed from 9.6 kilograms to 23kg and measured about 45 centimetres to 61cm in shell length. All of them were considered to be in good condition and ready to be returned to the sea. The AFCD will continue to work together with OPHK on the other turtles seized in the operation and release them in batches later according to their health condition and the weather.
Before the turtles were released to the sea, the AFCD tagged each of them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to the carapaces of some of the turtles. By tracking the movement and feeding grounds of green turtles in the sea, the AFCD can collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share its findings with other conservation authorities for the better conservation of sea turtles.
Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department via 1823.
On Saturday (9/1/2016) morning, a dead juvenile green turtle was found dead and entangled in a fishing net near Pui O Wan on the south of Lantau Island.
The turtle was not yet mature, and its shell measured about 60 cm in length. A necropsy performed by the agriculture, fisheries and conservation department (AFCD) found nothing abnormal. Officials were unable to determine the animal’s sex.
Iain Brymer, a 49-year-old Expat found the dead turtle near a rocky shore about a kilometre into paddling his outrigger canoe from Pui O Wan to Chi Ma Wan Peninsula.
On Saturday (24 Oct), the lifeless body of a green turtle was spotted on a beach at Pak Lap village, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The turtle’s body was said to have been dragged by stray dogs and its stomach mauled. An examination revealed that the stomach was full of litter.
The trash found inside the turtle, which was about 40-50 centimeters long, included nylon string and plastic bags.
It was the first time that evidence has been found in Hong Kong of green turtles consuming marine litter the report cited the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as saying.
After looking at the pictures of the turtle’s body, Chong Dee-hwa, the founder of the Hong Kong Ichthyological Society, believes the green turtle was a female aged around 10 years.
Patrick Yeung, project manager of the Coastal Watch Project under the WWF, said the case can be taken as evidence that sea turtles in Hong Kong are eating a lot of trash, which is a worrying situation.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was quoted as saying that it has been informed about the case and that it will send an officer to look into the matter.
The green turtle is a protected species in Hong Kong. The beach area in Sham Wan on Lamma Island and nearby shallow waters is one of the last nesting sites of the highly endangered green turtles of southern China.
Since 1999, the area was being closed to the public from June to October every year to enable the turtles to carry out their nesting activities.
A wider restricted area in southern Lamma would keep out the noisy junk parties that threaten the nesting site of rare creatures
It’s a sunny September day and half a dozen junks and pleasure boats are anchored in a scenic inlet on southern Lamma Island.
House music is booming and banana boat-tugging speedboats zip across the bay, while those with the energy make the 50-metre swim to shore – unknowingly committing an illegal act by frolicking on the sandy shores of Sham Wan beach.
The beach is one of the few regular nesting sites for endangered green sea turtles in southern China and is a restricted area during the breeding season between June and October. It was designated a site of special scientific interest in 1999.
Illegal entry is liable to a maximum fine of HK$50,000, but that’s only if nature wardens are able to stop such violations.
Scientists and green groups want the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to ramp up protection efforts by expanding the 0.5-hectare restricted zone to the entire bay to keep out junk parties.
A study by the Eco-Education and Resources Centre between 2013 and 2015 recorded anywhere between 12 and 17 boats anchored in the bay at weekends. Average noise levels went as high as 80 decibels, similar to a police siren, in some parts of the bay.
Green turtles are known for their migratory behaviour and loyalty to feeding sites and nesting grounds. Tracking efforts show they usually swim to Wanshan Archipelago, Fujian waters, the Pratas Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Philippines after visiting Hong Kong.
“Nesting sea turtles are easily affected by human activity,” said ERC science manager Dr Michelle Cheung Ma-shan.
“If a turtle is put off from approaching the beach, it will be forced to lay its eggs underwater, where they will die.”
There have already been notable drops over the years. Between 1998 and 2006, there were 14 records of nesting turtles in Sham Wan. But only two have been documented since 2006, with the last sighting in 2012.
Floating markers similar to ones used in marine parks could be set up to demarcate the entire bay as a protected area.
The ultimate goal is to establish a marine park in hopes that strengthened conservation efforts can bring back sea turtles in greater numbers, says Ken Ching See-ho, the ERC’s founder and director.
“The first step is to expand the restricted area under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance.”
Cheung said nature wardens should be patrolling the beach to keep people out, but their field studies showed they were only present about “60 to 70 per cent of the time”.
Ching said the department could look to successful examples of turtle protection areas overseas, such as the Sandakan Turtle Island Park in Sabah, Malaysia, and a protected area in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands.
Green Power chief executive Dr Man Chi-sam said Hong Kong’s efforts at turtle conservation were “very behind” and “very passive”. “[The findings] also reflect the low public awareness and understanding of this species in Hong Kong,” he said.
A department spokesman said regular patrols were conducted in the area to control unauthorised entry and to monitor the nesting activities of green turtles. “We will step up patrols and put up more warning signs to alert the public not to enter during the restricted period.”
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has released three green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), including 2 juveniles and 1 adult, and 1 juvenile hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong today.
The juvenile green turtles and the hawksbill turtle were found by members of the public and AFCD staff on Clear Water Bay Second Beach and Campers’ Beach in Sai Kung and Yan Chau Tong between October 2012 and May this year.
After an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtles were taken to Ocean Park for a veterinary assessment and care.
The adult green turtle was kept by Ocean Park since 2002. It was among the hatchlings artificially incubated from a batch of eggs collected in Sham Wan on Lamma Island in 2001. Because it had a slight deformity on its shell, it was looked after by Ocean Park.
The juvenile turtles ranged from 4.05 to 12.85 kg in weight and their shells were from 35 to 47cm in length, while the adult turtle weighed 76.5 kg and its shell was 79cm. All of them were in good condition, indicating that they were ready to be returned to the sea.
Before returning them to the sea, the AFCD tagged each turtle with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification, and attached a satellite transmitter to their backs. By tracing their oceanic movements and locating their feeding grounds, the AFCD can collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share findings with various conservation authorities such as tha Gangkou Sea Turtle National Nature Reserve in Huidong (Guandong Province).
Of the five sea turtle species found in Hong Kong waters, the hawksbill turtle is relatively rare and the green turtle is to date the only species known to nest locally.