WWF Lobbying Government for Additional Marine Parks

WWF yesterday (31st May) published “Sea for Future: Conservation Priority Sites for Hong Kong”, in which it proposed designating West Lantau, South Lamma, Shui Hau, Ninepin Group and Pak Nai as marine parks.

WWF also proposed to turn Sharp Island and Shelter Island in Port Shelter, as well as Tolo Harbour, into marine protected areas.

This would restrict developments in marine parks, limit boat speeds and ban the collection of marine creatures.

However, compared to marine parks the marine protected areas would have more lax regulations also be regulations.

Under the proposal the waters off Tai O and Yi O would be combined into a western Lantau marine park.

Tai O and Fan Lau are the only remaining core habitats of the dolphins, whose numbers have dropped from 188 in 2003 to just 47 in 2017.

Together with existing plans for two marine parks near Chek Lap Kok and southwest Lantau, the Tai O a marine park would provide a protected corridor for the dolphins during construction of the third runway.

A core dolphin conservation zone around Tai O would ban coastal development and put restrictions on traffic.

The South Lamma, Sham Wan, is the only nesting site for the turtles in HK, and its beach is closed to visitors during their nesting period between June and October.

But waters off the beach are not covered by the ban, and the area is popular with recreational boats. These affect the turtles, as they have to swim past to go onto the beach.

Human disturbances can prevent female green turtles from nesting.

The turtles were last spotted nesting there in 2012. Marine park status would limit human access to the beach and nearby shallow waters, control disturbance to the turtles and limit the speed of vessels to minimize risks of collision.

WWF also suggested making Shui Hau Wan in Lantau a marine park to protect horseshoe crabs. No-take zones should be created, and partial closures should to be implemented during their breeding season.

This should also be done in wetland Pak Nai in Yuen Long, a habitat for globally-endangered black-faced spoonbills.

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99 Artificially Hatched Sea Turtles  Released From Huizhou Turtle Reserve

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.

11 Sea Turtles Released Back Into The Sea

On the 29th of June (2017) the AFCD (Agriculture Fisheries & Conservation Department) released 10 green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and one hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the southern waters of Hong Kong.

The turtles were among the 35 green turtles and one hawksbill turtle seized from a fish raft in Sok Kwu Wan Fish Culture Zone (Lamma Island) in September 2016.

The 10 green turtles and the hawksbill turtle weighed from 11.5 kilograms to 61 kg and measured about 45 centimetres to 82cm in carapace length. All of them were assessed by veterinarians of OPHK as being in good condition and ready to be returned to the sea. The other green turtles were already released in November 2016.

A green sea turtle released into the sea by AFCD staff

Before the turtles were released to the sea, they were tagged with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to the carapaces 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. Satellite tracking revealed that the some of the turtles released in November 2016 headed south to the South China Sea via different routes, reaching Wanshan Archipelago, Dongsha, Nansha and Xisha Islands, Hainan Island and as far as Malaysia.

The green turtle and the hawksbill turtle are globally endangered and critically endangered species respectively. In Hong Kong, all sea turtle species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance . 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.

Sea Turtle Poachers Convicted

A court in the Philippines has found nine Chinese fishermen guilty of poaching and catching an endangered species in the South China Sea.

As reported in an earlier post, police found more than 500 sea turtles on their boat when the fishermen were intercepted at sea in May.

They were stopped at a shoal near the Spratlys, a chain of islands which both China and the Philippines claim.

The fishermens’ arrests has strained relations between both countries. China has demanded their release.

Philippines authorities had caught 11 fishermen on the boat, but later released two of them as they were found to be minors.

The remaining nine were each fined $100,000 (HKD 780,000) for poaching and USD 8,800 (HKD 68,650) for taking protected wildlife by a court in Palawan province on Monday.

If the fishermen cannot pay the fine, they will have to serve a jail sentence and can only be freed in May 2015.

Original Source: BBC News

Turtles Returned to the Sea

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released three green turtles, comprising two juveniles and an adult, and a juvenile hawksbill turtle in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong yesterday (June 23 2014).

The juvenile green turtles and juvenile hawksbill turtle were found by members of the public and staff members of the AFCD 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 (OPHK) for a thorough veterinary assessment. Since then, they have been looked after at OPHK with constant monitoring and veterinary care.

The adult green turtle had been kept by OPHK since 2002. It was among the hatchlings artificially incubated from a batch of eggs collected in Sham Wan on Lamma Island in 2001. Due to a slight deformity found in its shell, it had been looked after by OPHK since then.

Current weights of the juvenile turtles ranged from 4.05 to 12.85 kg 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. The AFCD is thankful to the public for their immediate reports, and the veterinarians and aquarium staff of OPHK for their efforts in taking care of these sea turtles.

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 its back. 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. This will be conducive to the effective protection of the species among nations.

The green turtle and hawksbill turtle are globally endangered and critically endangered species respectively. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department via 1823 to help protect them. The AFCD will continue its efforts in sea turtle conservation through monitoring, habitat management and educational activities.

In Hong Kong, all sea turtle species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170) and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). 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.

Turtles Returned to the Sea

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, which has been taken care by Ocean Park since 2002, returns to the sea. (Image by AFCD)
The adult green turtle, which has been taken care by Ocean Park since 2002, returns to the sea. (Image by AFCD)

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).

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department released green turtles and hawksbill turtle in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong today (June 23). Before the turtles are released back into the wild, satellite transmitters are attached to their back to collect information on their movements. (Image by AFCD)
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department released green turtles and hawksbill turtle in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong today (June 23). Before the turtles are released back into the wild, satellite transmitters are attached to their back to collect information on their movements. (Image by AFCD)

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.

 

Update 108 Sea Turtles Released Back Into The Wild

Philippine authorities on Monday filed charges against nine of the 11 Chinese fishermen apprehended last week for allegedly poaching hundreds of endangered sea turtles in a shoal near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez said that the Chinese fishermen face as many as 20 years in prison if convicted for gathering “critically endangered” species, such as the Hawksbill turtle.

Two Chinese suspects were released because they are minors, he said. In addition, five Filipino fishermen accused of loading the marine turtles onto the Chinese vessel were charged with the illegal gathering and trafficking of endangered species.

Philippines authorities said they found 489 sea turtles—108 of them alive and 381 dead—on the two boats. The authorities inventoried the turtles Saturday after the two fishing vessels arrived in Puerto Princesa, having been towed by maritime police for five days, Mr. Rodriguez said.

The live turtles were immediately released to sea after they were photographed to assist in the prosecution of the Chinese and Filipino fishermen.

Seventeen of the live turtles were Hawksbill while 91 were Green Sea turtles. The Hawksbill is a critically endangered species of marine turtle, the poaching of which could trigger, upon a conviction, 12 to 20 years of imprisonment or a fine of $2,290 per act. Philippine environmental laws allow bail for suspects accused of poaching if they are foreigners.

Associated Press video from YouTube (12th May 2014)

The Philippines is a hotbed for poaching. Five of the seven species of sea turtles around the world can be found in the Philippines because of the plentiful sea-grass beds.

Aside from the Hawskbill and Green Sea turtles, other species found in the country include the Olive Ridley, the Loggerhead and the Leatherback, the other marine-turtle species most threatened with extinction.

Sea turtles are valued for their eggs and meat—used in Chinese and other East Asian cuisine—and in Chinese medicine. The Japanese are a major buyer of sea turtle shells, known as bekko, which are used for ornaments and jewelry.

It takes decades before a sea turtle reaches maturity, and only then will females breed and return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their eggs. Predators, loss of habitat and other environmental threats mean as few as one in every 1,000 hatchlings reaches adulthood.

(Source Wall Street Journal Online, 12th May 2014)

Hong Kong has one of the last remaining nesting populations of endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in southern China. According to a recent study (Ng et al., 2014) the number of nesting turtles observed in Hong Kong was relatively low compared with other sites in southern China, but the the number of eggs laid and intervals between nesting is comparable with that of other nearby sites. The nesting turtles are thought to be the survivors of a small population that was reduced by historical harvesting of eggs in Hong Kong. DNA analysis showed that populations in Hong Kong and Lanyu, Taiwan, are genetically different which means the two populations are somehow isolated from each other. So losing either of these populations would cause a loss of genetic diversity for this species in the region, which is bad news. By tracking local nesting turtles by with satellite tags their movements and feeding habitats in Vietnam and Hainan Island were discovered. The research urges to international cooperation and consistent dedicated research for the conservation and recovery of green turtles in the region.

Needless to say the poaching and slaughter of turtles in the region severely threatens an already endangered species.