Japan fisherman ‘admits stabbing turtles stuck in his net to death’

Dozens of green sea turtles were found dead or dying from stab wounds off remote Kumejima island (Picture: AFP)

A Japanese fisherman has admitted stabbing dozens of protected sea turtles to death after becoming frustrated when they become tangled in his fishing nets, it has been claimed.

Local officials expressed astonishment that the ‘extremely grisly’ episode took place in the modern age, but did not name the individual involved.

They say he felt in ‘physical danger’ from the harmless turtles – but now regrets killing the widely-loved animals

Between 30 and 50 green sea turtles were found dead or dying with stab wounds on their necks and elsewhere on a beach in remote Kumejima island last Thursday.

Yoshimitsu Tsukakoshi, a senior staff member at local sea turtle conservation body Kumejima Umigame-kan, branded the beach some 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) southwest of Tokyo, ‘an extremely grisly scene’.

‘Sea turtles are gentle creatures and they move away when humans approach them,’ he said.

‘I couldn’t believe it could happen in this day and age.’

The remote Japanese island is 1,000 miles from Tokyo

Yuji Tabata, the head of the local fishermen’s cooperative, added that the man responsible has confessed to stabbing the animals after dozens become tangled in his gillnet.

The unnamed suspect told the cooperative that he released many of the tangled-up turtles, but after struggling with the animals, he began stabbing them to try and weaken them.

‘He said he has never seen so many turtles on his nets. He regrets it now,’ Mr Tabata explained.

‘He said he felt in physical danger.’

The local town government and police are investigating the deaths, a municipal official told news agency AFP – but they declined to say whether the fisherman could face punishment over the incident.

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Local media slammed the fisherman’s behaviour.

An editorial in the Okinawa Times newspaper condemned the deaths and the manner in which the protected animals were left to perish on the beach.

But it also urged local officials to consider claims by fishermen that turtles are causing economic damage.

Some fishermen in the area believe the turtle population is increasing, according to Japanese media.

Green turtles are endangered and their numbers are decreasing, according to the widely-respected IUCN red list.

Marine animals regularly get tangled in fishing nets, resulting in unnecessary death and injury to countless creatures.

That further disrupts eco-systems already taking a battering from the climate crisis.

The problem is known as ‘bycatch’ and also impacts dolphins, whales, sharks and seabirds, among other animals.

The creatures can collide with fishing boats, injuring themselves and damaging the crafts’ propellers.

Mr Tabata said the community is also concerned that turtles are eating the seagrass that is home to the fish they depend on for their livelihood.

He stressed that the incident was rare and fishermen regularly untangle turtles caught in their lines.

‘We are in the process of coming up with ideas so that this doesn’t happen again,’ he added.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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