At least 56 sea turtle nests have been found on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) off the coast of Taitung County, and on Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球) off the coast of Pingtung County, exceeding the numbers in the past few years, Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) officials said on Saturday.
The sea turtle nesting season in Taiwan lasts from May to October, and the reptiles have been found nesting along the coastlines of northern, eastern and southern Taiwan, as well as on the nation’s outlying islands.
However, due to the destruction of habitat, poaching and other threats, only green sea turtles have in the past few years continued to come ashore to lay eggs, mainly at five locations on the outlying islands.
Photo copied by Hung Ting-hung, Taipei Times
Nesting and hatching conditions are still being monitored and data would be publicized after the end of the nesting season, OCA officials said.
The five turtle species commonly seen off Taiwan’s coastlines are the green sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, olive ridley sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle and leatherback sea turtle, the officials said.
Green, loggerhead and olive ridley sea turtles have been recorded nesting on Taiwan proper and the outlying islands, they added.
The five remaining nesting areas for green sea turtles are Wangan Township (望安) in Penghu County, Orchid Island, Siaoliouciou Island, the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) and Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), the OCA said.
In 2016, a hawksbill sea turtle laid eggs on a beach at Beiliao Village (北寮) in Penghu County’s Husi Township (湖西), but the eggs were unfertilized and did not hatch.
In 2017, a nest of 27 newly hatched green sea turtles was discovered in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁).
Last year, the first documented nesting of a green sea turtle at Fushan Fish Reserve (富山護魚區) occurred in Taitung County’s Beinan Township (卑南), where 36 sea turtles hatched.
This year, as of the end of last month, the OCA had received reports of people witnessing the nesting or hatching of sea turtles on the beaches of Badai Bay (八代灣) and Siaobadai Bay (小八代灣) on Orchid Island; Yucheng Wei (漁埕尾), Jhong Au (中澳), Duozaiping (肚仔坪), Lobster Cave (龍蝦洞) and Beauty Cave (美人洞) on Siaoliouciou Island and Kenting’s Dawan area (大灣).
Reports also came in from Tiantaishan (天台山), Changlaizi (長瀨仔) and Houdaizi (後袋子) in Penghu County.
Preliminary statistics show 47 reports of nests on Orchid Island, nine on Siaoliouciou Island, seven in Penghu County and at least one in Kenting, the OCA said.
It urged local residents and tourists to avoid beaches where sea turtles nest from 8pm to 5am the next day, and to refrain from using artificial light sources near the beaches, which disturb nesting sea turtles.
The OCA also urged people not to dig holes, build sandcastles, or leave recreational equipment or trash on the beaches, amid concerns that those might become obstacles for the sea turtles.
The agency encouraged the public to call the toll-free coast guard hotline (118) if they find an injured or lost sea turtle.
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