Chinese fishermen return accidentally caught sea turtle to the sea

Fishermen in southern China province have released a protected sea turtle that was accidentally caught as they fished for squid in the South China Sea, a local television station reported.

The leatherback sea turtle, well over one metre long and weighing about 150kg, became entangled in fishing lines as it swam under the boat of the fishermen who were fishing for squid, Shantou TV reported.

When the fishermen hauled the turtle on board, it was motionless and bleeding from a wound on its hind leg.

The fishermen cleaned its wound and covered it with a wet cloth, then lowered it into the sea after regained consciousness.

“These sea turtles are protected animals. Some people sell them for a few thousand yuan after capturing them, but we don’t do that,” one of the fishermen was quoted as saying.

“A few thousand yuan is not a lot of money anyway. It’s better to let it go and do some good deed.”

Leatherback sea turtles are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable globally.

The large sea turtles rarely appear in open waters around Shantou, on the northeast coast of Guangdong, the report said.

But no all sea turtles are as lucky. In December, a 200kg giant leatherback sea turtle was slaughtered after it was caught by fishermen from the coastal town of Qianshan, in the southern part of Guangdong.

The turtle meat was sold in less than two hours for 140 yuan (HK$158) per kg, local villagers said, with the seller thought to pocketed about 20,000 yuan from the sale.

The incident caused an uproar in China and overseas. Six people suspected of slaughtering the animal were arrested.