RANTAU ABANG – The use of gillnets known locally as pukat pari or pukat malas by fishermen nearby the turtle landing sites has been identified as one of the main causes for turtle deaths in Terengganu.
Rantau Abang Fisheries Research Institute (FRI) director Sharum Yusof said its study found that 45 per cent of turtle deaths recorded so far were due to being caught in gillnets, while 38 per cent involved trawl nets.
“When a turtle is trapped in the nets which are set at the seabed for two or three hours, it cannot surface to breathe causing it to drown.
“Some fishermen are willing to kill the turtles as they do not want their nets to be damaged while removing the entangled turtles,” he told Bernama here.
He added that the turtles were also easily trapped if the nets used by fishermen exceeded the size allowed by the authorities. Only a mesh size of not more than 25 centimetres (10 inches) is allowed.
“There are many fishermen in the state who do not understand the regulations and carrying out fishing activities using nets that do not follow the specifications set by the authorities,” Sharum said.
He said various awareness programmes and courses had been held to increase fishermen’s awareness especially on the importance of following the stipulated rules.
“Unfortunately, the attendance is very low. Even worse, many fishermen go out fishing without a licence and these groups are the most difficult to educate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rantau Abang FRI research officer Nazuki Sulong said other causes of turtle deaths were due to boat propellers, and only five per cent of the deaths were due to plastic ingestion.
He added that deaths due to plastic ingestion were rare as it involved Leatherback turtle which feeds on jellyfish and the endangered species had not been seen landing on any beach in the state for a long time.
“There were a few cases where dead turtles found with plastic bags in their mouth, but it was not due to plastic ingestion but maybe an act of mischief (someone put it in the mouth),” he said.
Nazuki added that the use of Turtle Excluder Device (TED) fitted into trawl nets throughout the monsoon season (between November and March) would enable a captured sea turtle to escape when caught in a fisherman’s net.
“The turtles can escape through a valve found in the device, and will not get trapped and drowned in the nets,” he said.
The death of turtles in Terengganu is becoming more alarming with 22 cases reported from January up to today. In 2019, 78 cases were recorded, 55 cases (2020) and 51 cases (2021).
Between 800 and 1,000 turtles will land in Terengganu during its nesting season spanning April to October.