Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti releases endangered turtles into Natuna Sea on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of KKP)

Endangered Green and Hawksbill Turtles Released Back Into the Sea

BY :NUR YASMIN

MAY 06, 2019

Jakarta. Thirty endangered sea turtles that were discovered when they were about to be smuggled out of Indonesia were released back into their natural habitat in Riau's Natuna Sea on Sunday, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry announced in a statement.

The turtles were seized from their smugglers by Polair Kepri (Riau Water Police), the ministry said. 

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti and high-ranking officials from her ministry, including acting director general of maritime and fisheries resource monitoring Agus Suherman, and Riau government officials attended the official ceremony to release the endangered turtles back into the sea on Sunday.

"The 25 green turtles and five Hawksbill turtles were discovered in Batam by Riau Water Police," Agus said in the statement,

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) is included in the International Union for Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as an endangered marine herbivore.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the number of green turtles around the world has declined sharply due to overfishing, environmental destruction on beaches (where green turtles lay and nest their eggs) and people harvesting their eggs. 

Meanwhile, the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) is mentioned as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List. Sea pollution and climate change are the two biggest threats to their precarious existence.

Riau Water Police seized 148 smuggled turtles on April 19 but only 30 of them survived in quarantine.

The surviving turtles were kept in a shelter, while the dead ones were incinerated on April 21 at a quarantine center in Batam.

On Sunday, Minister Susi thanked the Riau Water Police for preventing the turtles from being smuggled out of Indonesia. She also encouraged other officials and the public to help protect Indonesia's natural marine resources.

"I hope law enforcement agencies continue to protect and save our natural marine resources from irresponsible parties,  especially those involved in the illegal trade of protected species," the minister said.

Sea turtle is protected in Indonesia under the 1999 Regulation on Protected Animals and under International Law according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

There are seven types of sea turtles in the world, and Indonesia is home to six of them: Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta), Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Flatback Turtle (Natator depressa).

The Maritime and Fisheries Ministry ordered regional governments back in 2015 to raise public awareness of endangered sea turtles and the 1999 government regulation issued to protect them.

According to the regulation, regional governments are responsible for protecting sea turtles, including by stopping illegal trade of the animal, their eggs, body parts and derivative products.

According to the WWF, sea turtles are an extremely important species since "they are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and help maintain the health of coral reefs and sea grass beds."

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