The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released an adult female green turtle (Chelonia mydas) in the eastern waters of Hong Kong today (January 28, 2013).
On December 14, 2012, the AFCD received a report from a fisherman that a green turtle had been accidentally caught in a fishing net in the waters off Tai Po. The fisherman rescued the turtle and informed the AFCD, who collected it the same day.
Following an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtle was taken to Ocean Park (OPHK) for a thorough veterinary assessment and was ascertained to be in good condition. Since then, it has been well looked after at OPHK with constant monitoring and veterinary care.
After a period of recovery, the turtle weighed 60kg and its shell was 84cm in length. Its good condition suggested it was ready to be returned to sea.
Before returning it to the sea, the AFCD tagged the turtle with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification, and attached a satellite transmitter to its back. Green turtles are remarkable for their migratory behaviour. By tracing their oceanic movements and locating their feeding grounds, the AFCD can collect data and share the findings with various conservation authorities, thus playing a part in the conservation of this endangered species.
The AFCD is very thankful to the fisherman who rescued the turtle and the veterinarians and aquarium staff of OPHK for their efforts in taking care of it. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting or stranding of sea turtles to the department via 1823 to help protect them. The AFCD will continue its efforts in sea turtle conservation through ecological monitoring, habitat management and educational activities.
In Hong Kong, all sea turtle species are protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170) and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). The green turtle is one of five sea turtle species found in Hong Kong waters and to date is the only species known to breed locally. Green turtles are known for their loyalty to feeding sites and nesting grounds, which are generally their natal beaches. Sham Wan on Lamma Island is Hong Kong’s only known primary nesting site for green turtles, and has consequently has been designated as a restricted area during the nesting period, which lasts from June to October each year. Those without permits will not be allowed to enter the area.
In the summer of 2012, the AFCD recorded that a green turtle laid five clutches of eggs at Sham Wan, numbering over 550 eggs in total. The same turtle also nested in Hong Kong in 2003 and 2008 before returning to its feeding ground in Vietnam. From mid-August to December, 2012, the AFCD conducted regular patrols to protect and monitor the green turtle nests through the natural incubation period, which lasts for 50 to 80 days.
Unfortunately, no sign of hatchlings was observed during the 2012 incubation period at Sham Wan. One of the possible reasons for the unsuccessful hatching is that the eggs were unfertilised. According to the nesting turtle’s satellite telemetry results, it resided in the waters around Lamma during the inter-nesting period. After laying the last clutch of eggs in October, it left Hong Kong waters. The telemetry signals showed that it headed towards its feeding ground.