Dozens of sea turtles stabbed to death near Japanese island

Tokyo A frustrated fisherman has confessed to stabbing dozens of protected sea turtles on a southern Japanese island after being caught in a fishing net, local officials say. Last Thursday, 30 to 50 green sea turtles were found dead or dying, with their necks stabbed and elsewhere, on a beach on remote Kumejima Island, about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo. Got stabbed.

According to Yoshimitsu Tsukakoshi, a senior staff member at the local sea turtle conservation body, Kumejima Umigame-kan, it was “an extremely frightening sight”.

“Sea turtles are gentle creatures and when humans come near them, they move away,” Tsukakoshi told AFP on Tuesday. “I couldn’t believe it could happen in this day and age.”

Chelonia mydas mydas or green sea turtles are commonly found
The green sea turtle, commonly found in tropical waters, has been in rapid decline as a species since the 1970s due to the harvesting of tortoises and eggs, but the population has grown in the last 30 years since protections were introduced.

John S. Lander/LightRocket/Getty

Yuji Tabata, head of a local fishermen’s cooperative, told AFP that the man responsible had confessed to stabbing the animals after dozens of people were trapped in gillnets.

The fisherman, whose name has not been released, told the cooperative that he released several entangled tortoises, but after struggling with the animals, he stabbed them to try to weaken them.

“He said he had never seen so many turtles on his net. He regrets it now,” Tabata said. “He said he felt in physical danger.”

The local city government and police are investigating the deaths, a municipal official told AFP whether the fisherman could face penalties over the incident.

An editorial in the local Okinawa Times newspaper on Tuesday condemned the deaths and the way in which protected animals were left to die on the beach.

It also urged local authorities to consider the claims of fishermen that the turtles are causing economic harm. Local reports state that some fishermen in the area believe the turtle population is on the rise, although the species is still considered endangered.

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The creatures can collide with fishing boats, injure themselves and damage the craft’s propellers.

Tabata said the community is also concerned that the turtles are eating the seagrass that is home to the fish they depend on for their livelihood.

He stressed that this phenomenon is rare and that fishermen regularly sort out turtles caught in their line.

“We are in the process of coming up with ideas so that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

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