Over 30 Endangered Sea Turtles Found Stabbed on a Japanese Beach

Police are still investigating how many of the animals died.
japan, sea turtle, endangered, conservation, stab, marks, knife, net, fishermen, okinawa
The turtles bore stab marks on their necks and flippers. Photo: LAUREN OWENS LAMBERT/AFP via Getty Images

More than 30 endangered turtles were found bleeding from stab wounds on their necks and flippers on Thursday, near a remote beach in southern Japan.

The green sea turtles, some of which were on the edge of death, were found by locals on Kumejima island beaches in the southern prefecture of Okinawa. Most were already motionless and lying near fishing nets by the time staff from the local Sea Turtle Museum rushed to attend to the animals.


Though police have yet to confirm why the animals were stabbed, the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported that a fisherman said he had no choice but to stab the animals after they got entangled in his nets, according to interviews with local fishermen.

Almost all sea turtle species are classified as either threatened or endangered animals and are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, a global inventory of the conservation status of animals. 

Japan also considers the green sea turtles as endangered, and animal rights groups have undertaken conservation efforts in Okinawa and Kagoshima, two prefectures where the turtles often lay eggs. Environmentalists protect nesting beaches by patrolling nearby to make sure no one bothers the turtles, or by helping the animals go back into the ocean if they get lost. The culture of eating turtles, once a delicacy, has also faded. 

But an increase in the number of sea turtles this year has troubled some fishermen, according to Yuji Tabata, the president of Kumejima Fishery Cooperative Association.

“They get caught in people’s nets or can collide with boats and cause accidents,” he told VICE World News. The largest of all hard-shelled sea turtles, the green sea turtle can weigh up to 300 to 350 pounds as an adult and can be feisty when under threat. Fishermen have also said that the turtles eat and diminish the supply of farmed mozuku—a local seaweed speciality.


But when turtles do get caught in nets, stabbing them is certainly not the way to go, Tabata said. 

“When a turtle is caught, you try your best to untangle them and if you can’t, then you cut the nets and release the animals,” he said. Stabbing more than 30 turtles to release them is unheard of and a poor way of handling the situation, he said. 

At most, Tabata has heard of three to four sea turtles getting caught in a net at any one time, he added. 

Though the police haven’t confirmed how many sea turtles have died, the nearby Sea Turtle Museum brought back one carcass to investigate its cause of death, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. 

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