Malaysia seizes trawler with 220 rare turtles

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Kuala Lumpur, Mar 29: Malaysian marine police have seized a trawler &13;carrying about 220 rare sea turtles and arrested 17 Chinese men for poaching, &13;their second such seizure this week, a police chief said today.

In the &13;two seizures, both involving chases through Malaysian waters, almost 300 turtles &13;were recovered. Most were dead, caught for use in making Chinese medicines. &13;Their shells and skins are also used to make fashion accessories.

''We &13;chased them for about half an hour,'' said Assistant Commissioner Mohd Sueb, &13;head of marine police for Sabah state, referring to the second seizure &13;yesterday.

''They refused to stop their engine so we were alongside and &13;we jumped over and managed to stop the engine.'' Armed police, acting on &13;tip-offs, intercepted both trawlers in waters off Sabah, Borneo island, Mohd &13;Sueb said by phone. The turtles were mostly green turtles and hawksbills, both &13;listed as endangered by the Swiss-based World Conservation Union.

Only 20 &13;of the roughly 220 seized on Wednesday were still alive, Mohd Sueb said. Of the &13;78 turtles recovered in the first seizure on Monday, only five were alive, a &13;local newspaper said. All the turtles were handed over to Malaysia's fisheries &13;department.

Nineteen men were arrested in Monday's seizure.

Under &13;Malaysia's fisheries law, the skippers of the trawlers face a maximum fine of 1 &13;million ringgit (9,000) and the crew could each be fined up to 100,000 &13;ringgit.

Asked if police suspected any more turtle poachers were still &13;trawling waters off Sabah, Mohd Sueb said: ''So far, no news. It depends on the &13;intelligence that we get.''

Reuters &13;

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