Poachers with nearly 300 sea turtles nabbed

/ Source: msnbc.com news services

Malaysian authorities this week seized a second Chinese trawler allegedly poaching endangered turtles and other marine animals from waters off its coast this week.

Marine police on Wednesday stopped a fishing boat from China's Hainan province near the coast of Malaysia's eastern Sabah state and found more than 200 protected green and hawksbill turtle species on board, The Star and the New Straits Times reported Thursday. Only about 20 of the turtles were still alive, the newspapers said.

On Monday, officers stopped another Chinese fishing trawler in a nearby area and discovered more than 70 green and hawksbill turtles, most of which were dead, the reports said.

"This is a serious offense," state Marine Police Chief Sueb Abdullah was quoted as saying in The Star. "Not only have they encroached into our waters, they were catching internationally protected turtles."

Officers also found three live sharks and a shark skin on the vessel on Wednesday, the reports said.

A total of 17 crew members were also being held for encroachment, they said.

Turtles are poached for their shell, for decorative items and meat, which is believed in many Asian cultures to have medicinal value. Both green and hawksbill turtles are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union.

Wednesday's seizure alone represented a serious depletion of the population of green turtles and hawksbills, WWF-Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia said a statement.

"We urge the authorities to prosecute these poachers to the full extent of the law. If there is no deterrent, killing of these endangered species will continue," Chris Shepherd, of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, said in the statement.