KUCHING: The Marine Research Foundation (MRF), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Sabah, hopes that the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on trawl nets will be expanded throughout Malaysia to protect turtles from the threat of bycatch.
Bycatch in the fishing industry refers to marine species being unintentionally caught while catching other target species such as fish and prawns. A TED is a device attached to trawl nets to allow turtles to escape if they are captured.
MRF team member Liyana Izwin Khalid said that bycatch was among the greatest threats to turtles in Malaysia.
She explained that turtles could get caught in various types of nets such as trawl nets, drift nets, longline and ghost nets – adding that blast fishing could also cause turtle deaths.
She said that the TED Project by MRF had been initiated following its Sabah Bycatch Survey 2007, which revealed that about 3,000 to 4,000 turtles were caught unintentionally per year and 70 percent of bycatch was from trawl nets, the most commonly used type of net in Malaysia.
“By attaching TEDs to trawl nets, turtles will be able to escape the net,” she said during a talk on ‘Challenges in Turtle Conservation in Borneo’ live streamed on Borneo Ocean Talks Facebook page on Thursday.
In 2007, MRF expanded its TED Project to the east coast of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.
“It took a while to convince the fishermen at first. Eight years later (in 2015), the Department of Fisheries Malaysia was committed to the use of TEDs on trawl nets,” she said.
Liyana hoped that TEDs would be implemented more widely throughout Malaysia in future.
She expressed concern that if nothing was done to address the bycatch issue, the number of turtles would dwindle over the years as the number of trawlers nationwide increased.
“Let us encourage our Fisheries Departments to make the use of TEDs on trawl nets compulsory to allow sustainable fishing and a balanced ecosystem,” she urged.