Rescue of bycaught sea turtles and marine animals

A training session on the rescue of sea turtles and marine animals caught unintentionally (bycatch) has been held recently at the Hon Cau Marine Protected Area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the Center for Biodiversity Conservation and Endangered Species (CBES).

Representatives from 16 marine protected areas/national parks (MPA/NP) and representatives from 28 provincial Fisheries Sub-Departments across coastal provinces of Vietnam attended the session.

In Vietnam, all species of sea turtles are legally protected. Individuals who violate these laws can be fined up to 2 billion VND or face imprisonment for up to 15 years. However, in reality, the hunting, slaughtering, and trading of sea turtles still occur in many localities. The exploitation of marine resources not only depletes the food sources of turtles but also causes them to get entangled in fishing gear.

According to Vu Long, a CBES expert, when dealing with sea turtles entangled in nets or lines, especially those caught on hooks, we must immobilize the turtle. For small to medium-sized turtles, they can be brought onto the boat. In case a turtle is hooked, it is crucial not to pull the fishing line to bring the turtle aboard, as this can cause internal injuries. Avoid lifting the turtle by its flippers or turning it upside down, as this can compress its lungs. To cut the lines and nets, place the turtle securely on a tire, rope loop, or plastic container and use pliers, scissors, or specialized hook-cutting knives. After cutting and removing all the lines and nets, assess the tissue condition. If there are signs of necrosis or decay, the turtle must be transported to a rescue center.

If a sea turtle or marine animal is caught on a hook and the hook is visible outside the soft tissue, prioritize breaking the hook and removing it. If the hook is embedded in the soft tissue and not visible outside, remove it if it is shallow and not deeply embedded. If the hook is deeply embedded and almost protruding, push it through and then cut it.

In cases where sea turtles or marine animals are stranded with fishing gear, handle the rescue as you would for a stranded animal, recording information about the gear. Often, animals stranded with fishing gear are in poor health and should be considered for transport to a rescue center.

The government has issued Decree 37/2024/ND-CP (amending and supplementing several articles of Decree 26/2019/ND-CP dated March 8, 2019, detailing some provisions and measures to implement the Fisheries Law). This includes new regulations related to unintentional catches of endangered, precious, and rare aquatic species. Individuals and organizations must record information in the logbook and accurately assess the health condition of the bycaught individuals to handle them appropriately according to legal regulations, thus avoiding unfortunate legal consequences.


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