The Turtle Killer in Singapore & Why It Should be Banned!

Another Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle 
Found Dead at Changi Bay Singapore!

Earlier in the afternoon, 3.30 pm on 16 March, Mohammed Nordin from Fish On, was fishing offshore at the coast of Changi Bay (Near Tekong Island). Hoping to catch Mangrove jack and barramundis, Mr Nordin instead stumbles across a gill net. Upon closer inspection, he notices a dead hawksbill sea turtle trapped inside of the unattended gill net. 

A Sea Turtle caught in a Gill Net
Photos by Mohammad Nordin 

Singapore Turtle Caught in gillnet

The turtle had its flipper caught in the gill net. This unfortunate discovery is just one of numerous other incidents here in Singapore. The majority of them had gill nets as the primary cause. 

When Mr Nordin found the turtle, he immediately began to document the situation and had alerted the Marine Stewards to find out what he could do. Marine Stewards swiftly contacted the relevant authorities and organised a team to help get the turtle away from the location. Even though the turtle had sadly passed away, the turtle could still be used to learn more about this species in Singapore.

As seen in this photo, Mr Nordin coordinates the turtle's extraction with the police coast guards who came to help him carry the hawksbill turtle. 

Mr Nordin spotted the turtle from his kayak while he was fishing in front of Changi Aviation Staging ground in the Johor strait. Finding turtles stuck in gill nets has recently become a recurring event in Singapore. It is essential to keep our eyes out for these nets in the case of turtles and other endangered sea creatures, as there is a chance they can still be saved, which has been the case recently.  

Gill Nets; The Turtle Killer in Singapore! 

What are Gill nets?

Gill nets are nets placed in the depths of the sea, usually at the sea level where most of the medium-sized/ pelagic fish are located. Fishes will swim into these nets, not knowing that they will get trapped inside them.

Gillnets Fishing

A gill net is a wall of netting that hangs in the water column, typically made of monofilament or multifilament nylon. Their Mesh sizes are designed to allow fish to get only their head through the netting but not their body. The fish's gills then get caught in the mesh as the fish tries to back out of the net.

There are two main types of gill nets:

1. Set gill nets
These are gill nets that are attached to poles fixed in the substrate or an anchor system to prevent movement of the net.

2. Drift gillnets
They are kept afloat at the proper depth using a system of weights and buoys attached to the headrope, footrope, or floatline.

The Problem with GillNets Fishing

Compared to regular fishing, where one fish will be caught at a time, gill net fishing catches multiple fishes and marine animals all at one go.

Gill nets do an unbelievable amount of damage. Used to capture large amounts of fish, they kill not only targeted species, but any creature that swims into them. Critically endangered hammerhead sharks are particularly vulnerable to being caught as their unique T-shaped heads become easily entangled.

Gill net fishing has proven to be destructive to the ocean ecosystems, killing endangered species and, in some cases, overfishing. 

In the case of the overuse of gill nets, this can cause overfishing. Furthermore, gill nets will accidentally capture unwanted species (in this case, sea turtles), which further threatens the already endangered species. 

Why Many Anglers Still Use Gill Nets Fishing

Due to overfishing in Singapore, some may choose to use gill nets to increase the quantity of their catch. While talking to Ben, he mentioned he had multiple experiences with gill nets, the most memorable being at Bedok Jetty. “The person that set their gill net up used multiple fishing rods to keep it hidden. We could tell the angler had left their equipment unattended for a while as we could begin to see the net due to the receding tide. We waited around for some time to see if the angler would come to educate them that it was very illegal to use. After waiting, no one came, so we checked online for the rules and regulations of using gill nets to make sure we were about to do the right thing. We then proceeded to bring in the gill net by hand. Once we had brought it in, we were happy to find that there were no sea creatures stuck. We then proceeded to throw it in a nearby trash bin.”

Are There Turtles in Singapore?

Yes! Singapore is home to the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricata), which both continually return to our sandy shores to lay their eggs, despite our high rate of urbanisation and busy waters. The Green Turtle (left) and Hawksbill Turtle (right) call Singapore's waters home.

Hawksbill Turtles can be found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. They avoid deep waters, preferring shallow coral reefs and have been regularly sighted along the Singapore Strait. Females have also been spotted coming ashore at East Coast Park to lay eggs. Sea turtle eggs usually hatch between June and September. 

Small Sister's Island is an ideal location to find turtles in Singapore. The island is centrally sited between East Coast Park and the rest of the Southern Islands, where the majority of turtle nesting activities have been recorded since 2005.

A Hawksbill Turtle Spotted at our Waters

Hawksbill Turtle in Singapore

Video Showing 100 Turtle Hatchlings @ East Coast Park

On June 19 2021, A total of around 100 turtle hatchlings were found at East Coast Park. They belonged to the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle species. 

We ask Mr Ben, founder of SGfishingRigz and also a kayak fishing guide about what he thinks of gill nets and turtles.  

“Turtles are more common to see in Singapore than most people believe. I generally see one surface for air in one out of three of my kayak trips. The coolest thing about these turtles is that they each have their own personality. Some are shy and will come up to breathe from a distance. However, some will come up right next to my kayak and look around before going back down to the depths. It's always great to see the turtles on my trips as not only am I happy, and my guests are all ecstatic to see such creature living in Singapore, a true experience of the biodiversity in Singapore.

At SGFishingrigz, we get a large amount of enquiries about anglers wanting to purchase gill nets or fishing nets. However, despite the potential revenue it can generate for the company, we refused to carry the stock at our shop. We hope other fishing shops and online platforms will do a self ban and stop carrying gill nets in their store". 

Other Incidents of Turtle caught in gill nets;

On 25 Nov 2021, A Hawksbill sea turtle was rescued by a group of paddlers. Luckily for us, it is alive. 

In May 2021, another critically-endangered Hawksbill sea turtle was found dead and entangled in a 100-m gill net near Pulau Hantu. It is believed that the turtle drowned because it was unable to surface for air after it was caught in the gill net

It's estimated that some 4,600 sea turtles are killed by fishing nets and hooks every year in U.S. waters. Trapped in a net, the turtles are dragged through the water with no access to the surface to breathe, causing them to drown. 

More Reasons why we should practise Sustainable Fishing

To all fellow anglers, we should all play our part in promoting healthy fishing habits to create a more sustainable fishing hobby. By doing your part (such as educating other anglers of the threats posed by gill net fishing), we can prevent such saddening incidents. A big thanks to Nordin for finding the endanger sea-turtle and removing the nets and preventing other marine species from getting caught. 

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