|Sea turtles are released with GPS trackers on their shells, Aug. 26. Yonhap|
By Hwang Dong-hee
Six endangered sea turtles were set free into the ocean at Jungmun Saekdal Beach, Jeju Island on Thursday, in efforts to preserve the species in the wild, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.
Among the six, two four-year-old green sea turtles were artificially hatched in an aquarium; one green sea turtle and three loggerhead sea turtles were rescued in the wild. All of them are in good health and ready to return to their natural habitat.
Since 2017, the ministry has released a total of 128 sea turtles ― which were either rescued or artificially incubated ― at the same place every year, as marine turtles generally navigate back to their natal beaches to lay eggs.
The release site, Jungmun Saekdal Beach, is where sea turtles had already laid their eggs several times in the past. Also, the island provides a favorable environment for the turtles with few fishing nets, a plentiful supply of food, and in particular, easy access to the Pacific Ocean.
|A green sea turtle, rescued on Aug. 22, 2019, swims in an aquarium in Busan. Courtesy of Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries|
Sea turtles are one of the most imperiled forms of sea life. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), six of the seven existing turtle species are on the verge of extinction ― listed as ‘vulnerable,’ ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered.’
Sandy beaches for their spawning grounds are disappearing due to coastal development and pollution, while marine waste ― mostly floating plastics ― threatens their lives, as they are in many cases mistaken for food.
|GPS trackers show the traveling routes of the previously released sea turtles. Courtesy of Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries|
Along with the international efforts to protect the endangered species, South Korea designated five species found near Korea ― the green sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle, the olive ridley turtle, the hawksbill turtle, and the leatherback sea turtle ― as “protected marine creatures,” prohibiting the hunting or selling of the animals by law.
In addition, the government has been rescuing and treating injured turtles while striving to restore the population through artificial hatching.
“We hope the sea turtles will live freely in the ocean like the turtles set free last summer,” said a ministry official. “We will continue to promote conservation policies to protect the marine species,” he added.