Marine turtles in Malaysia are protected under the Fisheries Act 1985. It is a federal act relating to the administration and management of fisheries, including the conservation and development of estuarine fishing and fisheries in Malaysia waters, protection to turtles and riverine fishing in Malaysia. However, matters relating to turtle is under the purview of the respective states in the country.
On the other hand, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 lists several levels of protection for endangered species of wild animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects), but completely omitted all species of terrapins and tortoises.
Sarawak has updated its conservation measures under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998, an ordinance to provide better provisions for the protection of wildlife, as well as the establishment and management of Wildlife Sanctuaries. Sabah, too, prohibits commercial exploitation of marine turtles and their eggs. But apart from these two states, legislation in other states is inadequate.
Currently only 6 states in Malaysia have legislation related to the exploitation, licensing for egg collection and possession or killing of marine turtles (Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu, Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan).
The Terengganu Turtle Enactment 1951 (Amendment 1987) provides a whole range of protection, i.e. ban of sale of leatherback turtle eggs, and penalties, i.e. RM3,000 fine and up to one year’s jail for killing, possessing, removing or destroying eggs and failure to furnish statistics (in the case of licensed egg-collectors), and RM1,000 fine or jail up to six months for injuring or disturbing nesting terrapins. But these provisions have never been evoked.
Hence, a federal law protecting the turtles should be made and adopted by all states to ensure the survival of these species.
Shortly after this blog post was published, the Malaysian government passed the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 that protects all freshwater turtle and tortoise species in the country.