KUALA TERENGGANU (Bernama): The rising trend of turtle eggs being sold online since May last year has prompted a group of activists to form a surveillance team known as Turtle Watch Malaysia.
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu Oceanography and Environment Institute Research Laboratory head Dr Mohd Uzair Rusli, who is one of the activists, said the setting up of the team had given concerned members of the public an avenue via social media to provide information on such activities.
He said to date, Turtle Watch Malaysia has gathered almost 1,000 "agents" who would furnish the team with information on the sale of turtle eggs online, and the activities have been reported to the Fisheries Department for further action.
“We also encourage social media users to criticise the sellers and buyers. If they are brave enough to sell turtle eggs openly, we must also be brave enough to call them out in a prudent and civilised manner.
“Selling turtle eggs openly is seen as disrespecting turtle conservation efforts. We have to be more vocal when sharing the goals of these efforts so that they will not go to waste,” he said when contacted.
Mohd Uzair said the sales have been on an upward trend since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed in March last year with many sellers opting to use online platforms to sell the eggs.
“This is a dangerous activity because the demand for turtle eggs has increased dramatically. Following the urging of a coalition of NGOs last year, the Terengganu government agreed to amend the existing enactment on turtles to ban the sale of all types of turtle eggs.
“However, the process of formulating the new enactment has stalled and is moving very slowly because of a series of MCOs.
"This has made turtle egg sellers feel safe because there is no legal action that can be taken against them at this time,” he said.
The Terengganu Turtle Enactment 1951 (Amended 1987) only prohibits the sale of leatherback turtle eggs but it is no longer relevant to the current situation as the species has not landed in Terengganu for a long time.
Mohd Uzair said Turtle Watch Malaysia receives complaints about the sale of turtle eggs online almost every week.
“We will submit reports to the Fisheries Department if it is proven that the eggs were collected from restricted areas such as marine parks.
“The largest offer we detected is 600 turtle eggs from Redang Island estimated to be worth RM3,000.
"There are also sellers who offer delivery service to several districts in Terengganu,” he said.
According to Mohd Uzair, although the activity has existed in Terengganu for a long time and the culture of eating turtle eggs is deeply ingrained in society, it has to be stopped immediately.
“Commercialising this activity causes the eggs to be collected in huge amounts and as a result, we will fail to produce new adult turtles.
“We have to incubate as many eggs as possible because we are currently facing a high number of predators, whereby only one out of 1,000 baby turtles can grow up safely at sea,” he said.
Mohd Uzair strongly urged all those involved to stop selling turtle eggs because such activity will only harm the state’s economy and tourism sector. – Bernama