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Okinawa Pref. fishing operator 'had to stab' 30-plus endangered sea turtles

This photo provided by the Kumejima sea turtle museum shows some of the green sea turtles found in a very weak condition.

A fishing operator in Okinawa Prefecture reportedly said they "had to stab" dozens of red-listed sea turtles to remove them from fishing nets, a source close to the matter has told the Mainichi Shimbun.

    More than 30 green sea turtles on the edge of death were found along the coast in Kumejima, Okinawa Prefecture, on the early afternoon of July 14. Most of them had apparent stab wounds near the base of their necks.

    According to the source, the fishery operator said, "A lot of them were tangled up in fishing nets. I disentangled some of them and released them into the sea, but I couldn't free heavy ones, so I stabbed them to get rid of them."

    Okinawa Prefectural Police's Naha Police Station and the Kumejima Municipal Government are questioning witnesses.

    Green sea turtles, as well as loggerhead sea turtles, are designated as endangered species on the red lists of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Japanese Environment Ministry. Preservation activities have been ongoing in prefectures including Okinawa and Kagoshima, where the turtles lay eggs.

    According to sources affiliated with fishing businesses in the island town of Kumejima, however, an unusual number of sea turtles have appeared around the area this year, and the animals have been feeding on local specialty seaweeds such as farmed mozuku and sea lettuces, causing significant damage.

    A Kumejima Fisheries Cooperative Association representative told the Mainichi, "We don't have definite details, because the person dealing with that is absent."

    (Japanese original by Ken Nakazato, Kyushu News Department)

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