Thais urge to help save endangered sea turtles in local waters

SUNDAY, JUNE 16, 2024

Turtle-breeding colonies of five species in Thai waters are at risk of extinction due to human activity, the government warned, while encouraging all Thais to reduce their use of plastic bags and packages as the country joins the world in celebrating World Sea Turtle Day on Sunday, deputy government spokeswoman Kaenika Oonchit said.

Leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, hawksbill, and green turtles are five near-extinction species.

The leatherback turtle is currently listed as a protected wild animal, while the other four species of sea turtles are on the protected wildlife list under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act of 2019.

Recognising the significant decrease in the number of sea turtles at risk of extinction, particularly the leatherback breeding population, Kaenika pointed out that the government, led by the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry, has discussed proactive plans and collaborated with all relevant agencies to investigate practical measures to preserve these sea creatures.

She emphasised that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's government prioritises environmental issues, including rare and near-extinction marine species.

Unfortunately, despite proactive regulations to protect and preserve sea turtles, the creatures continue to be threatened with extinction.

According to several studies, one of the primary direct reasons sea turtles are declining is plastic bags discarded by humans. As a result, the government would like to encourage all Thais to help protect sea turtles by reducing the use of plastic bags, which helps to reduce plastic waste. 

Thais urge to help save endangered sea turtles in local waters

Aside from plastic bags, sea-turtle populations are declining because of the illegal collection of sea-turtle eggs and the use of illegal fishing gear, particularly during the spawning season.

Sea turtles are considered near extinction, with leatherbacks being the most endangered. According to a recent World Wildlife Fund report, fewer than 2,300 adult female leatherbacks remain in the Pacific Ocean, indicating that the species is critically endangered in the region.

Last month, a group of Thai scientists successfully released nearly a dozen baby leatherback turtles into the Indian Ocean. Each baby turtle is equipped with a tiny satellite tag on its back, which collects data to study geographical areas frequented by baby sea turtles, giving them a better chance of survival.

The move is part of an international tagging initiative led by Upwell Turtles, a non-profit organisation in the United States.

Biologists explain that leatherback sea turtles lay eggs in the tropical and subtropical zones, but they spend their entire lives in the open sea, travelling as far north as Norway and as far south as New Zealand and diving to depths of more than 1,000 metres.

Thais urge to help save endangered sea turtles in local waters

As a result, these turtles face serious threats such as entanglement in fishing gear, ingestion of plastic waste, and exposure to toxins.

Furthermore, coastal erosion and development are changing their nesting locations, posing new threats to their survival.