BALIK PULAU (THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A critically endangered hawksbill turtle that was caught in a fisherman’s net in waters off the shoreline has been freed.
Known to land only in Malacca and Johor, but never in Penang, the turtle got trapped in Abd Malik Man’s pomfret net just off Balik Pulau.
However, the 54-year-old fisherman did not dare to immediately release the turtle when he spotted the rare catch on Saturday.
“It might have been injured when it got trapped. If I didn’t release it correctly, it might die. I would not harm it. So, I brought it back and called the Fisheries Department.”
The department’s officers arrived at 10pm on the same day and checked the turtle.
“They told me that it was healthy. I was so relieved and handed the animal over to them,” he said, adding that the turtle weighed about 10kg.
Praising Abd Malik for contacting the department, state Fisheries director Noraisyah Abu Bakar said the turtle could have hurt its mouth with the net.
Measuring some 50cm long and 36cm wide, Noraisyah said the adult hawksbill would be sent to the Penang Turtle Sanctuary in Pantai Kerachut for data recording and observation before its release.
The sex and age of the animal have yet to be determined.
Sanctuary officer Mohd Syahrulnizam Ismail said Penang was not a known nesting site for hawksbill turtles.
“It was probably just passing by. Only green and Olive Ridley turtles nest here,” he said, adding that hawksbills were found in Malacca and Terengganu.
According to the WWF Malaysia website, 200 to 300 hawksbills nest in Malacca and 500 to 600 in Sabah each season, with small numbers recorded in Johor and Terengganu.
The turtle is so named because of its narrow, pointed beak, which resembles a bird of prey.
Universiti Sains Malaysia marine biologist Prof Dr Aileen Tan said the "travelling turtle" could have been caught in a net because it was after jellyfish.
"It’s been raining a lot lately and that encourages jellyfish to be closer to the shore."