Leatherback sea turtles disappearing from Thai waters

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Conservation has ordered authorities at marine national parks to tighten crackdown on illegal fishing activities to protect endangered marine species, particularly leatherback sea turtles.

The order by the department’s director-general Tunya Netithammakul came as a survey by park authorities during the past four years from 2013-2017 showed  leatherback sea turtles didn’t come ashore on sandy beach to nest and lay eggs.

This was very unusual as in the past, dozens of leatherback nests were found on Phuket and Phangnga beaches. Regular nesting grounds for the leatherback turtles are Khao Lampi – Hat Thai Mueang marine national park in Phangnga and Sirinat marine national park in Phuket.

The latest sighting of the sea turtles coming ashore to lay eggs was in 2013 at Mai Khao beach in Phuket, he said this week.

The disappearance of leatherback turtles indicates that their population in Thai waters is shrinking.

Mr Tunya blamed coastal development, the use of destructive fishing gears, and sea turtle eggs poaching as major reasons for the disappearance of the leatherback which is a rare and protected  species under Appendix 1 of the 1992 Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.

Nattapol Rattanaphan, director of the department’s marine national park division, said a sea turtle egg is sold 150 baht each.

With the imminent distinction of the leatherback sea turtles, he said park authorities are ordered to strictly enforce wildlife protection law, especially against the use of trawlers and push net within 3 nautical miles from the coastline, he said.