After tracking 15 green turtles by satellite for two years, biologists have found the creatures travel up to 2,000km before laying their eggs on Thai beaches.
“Part of the green turtle’s mysterious life has been revealed,” said Dhammarong Prakobboon, Fisheries Department director-general.
Mr Dhammarong said mapping the turtles’ migration patterns would help determine whether they swam through shrimp-fishing grounds in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea. If so, trawlers would be prohibited from straying across the migration paths during the April-to-July nesting season.
Supot Chantrapornsyl, a biologist at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, explained transmitters were attached to the shells of the 15 turtles to track their locations.
The results indicated the creatures swam in waters about 30km offshore during the nesting season.
After laying eggs, the turtles travelled back to feeding grounds in Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and India’s Andaman archipelago. The Fisheries Department planned to conduct similar projects with Olives Ridley and Hawksbill turtles.
Thailand has been criticised internationally for failing to protect turtles swimming in its waters. It has been reported that a large number are killed every year by fishing nets.
Their nesting grounds have also been encroached upon by resorts, shrimp farms, industrial parks and deep-sea ports. According to Wildlife Fund Thailand, the population of turtles in Thai waters has declined sharply.
Female turtles, which return to their birthplaces to lay eggs, have disappeared from many beaches along the country’s coastline. Turtles nest mostly in Phang Nga, Phuket and Rayong.
In 1997, the United States banned Thai shrimp, saying trawlers were responsible for killing many turtles. The ban was lifted in 1999 after the government agreed to ensure nets were modified to prevente turtles from being caught up in them. But US officials continue to monitor fishing practices. “The US could re-introduce the ban if they find turtles are still being threatened,” Mr Dhammarong said.
“So, we have to make sure they are looked after well,” he said.