KOTA KINABALU: A staggering 9,000kg of dried meat from 12,000 illegally harvested turtles have been seized by marine police from a trawler in waters off Sabah’s northern Pulau Banggi.
Describing it as the biggest marine police seizure this year, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jauteh Dikun said the value of the dried turtle meat along with other endangered marine species were worth about RM4.5mil.
“According to Wildlife Department’s estimates, the amount of seizures this time involved at least 12,000 turtles caught illegally,” he said.
However, he told reporters yesterday that four men, believed to be foreigners, on board the trawler managed to escape as a marine police patrol boat approached them in waters between the island of Banggi and Bangsi at about 11.15am on Nov 29.
However, they were picked up by a speedboat in shallow waters, he added.
Comm Jauteh said the owner of the trawler registered in Semporna has been detained.
“We are investigating whether the owner is directly involved or rented the vessel to a third party,” he added.
Comm Jauteh said the marine patrol, under Ops Taring Gelora, were out in the Mangsee Reef area in northern Kudat waters when they spotted the trawler.
Comm Jauteh pointed out that turtle meat could reach up to RM500 per kilogramme.
Based on preliminary findings, the turtles were believed to have been caught in the Sulu Sea and the South China Sea and were bound for markets overseas.
Police believe the suspects were not only catching the turtles themselves but also buying them from others in the area before selling to buyers from abroad.