PETALING JAYA: There should be a nationwide ban on the trade of sea turtle eggs of any kind, and not just in Sabah and Sarawak, said the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
In a statement, WWF said all states in Malaysia should emulate Sarawak and Sabah's ban on the trade of endangered animal's eggs.
"As states are left to make laws relating to turtles under the Federal Constitution, this has resulted in varying standards being applied in each state," it said.
"For instance, it is not explicitly prohibited in Terengganu with the exception of Leatherback Turtle eggs. The absence of a national ban is permitting the sale of eggs that are purportedly sourced from another state or any country," it said.
The WWF noted it was practically impossible to distinguish where the turtle eggs came from, making enforcement difficult.
The statement was issued following news of the Marine Police foiling an attempted smuggling of 2,100 turtle eggs into Sandakan, as reported by The Star last week.
WWF-Malaysia chief executive Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said if left undisturbed on a nesting beach, about 70% to 80% of the eggs would have hatched.
"We have now lost approximately 1,500 hatchlings," he said.
"Malaysia is fortunate to host four species of marine turtles. Sadly, the number of turtle nestings have reduced and some populations are on the brink of extinction. Leatherback turtles have not been sighted in Terengganu in the last five years," he said.
He added that earlier this year, 19 turtle carcasses were found in Sabah waters as a result of illegal activity. From January to May this year, at least 60 male and female turtles were found dead in Terengganu, trapped in fishing nets.
"If a turtle manages to beat all odds and matures to return to the same beach it was born to nest, it may face poachers who take its eggs and end the turtle's cycle of life," WWF-Malaysia marine head Robecca Jumin said.
"The issue goes beyond that of turtle egg smuggling. Where there is demand, there is supply," she said.
Concerns that a ban would affect livelihoods should not arise as a survey conducted by WWF-Malaysia in Terengganu in November 2013 indicated that the sale of turtle eggs were not a significant source of income to villagers involved in the trade, she added.