A record haul of 9,000 live terrapins bound for mainland dining tables has been seized from two fishing boats by an anti-smuggling taskforce. The terrapins, worth about $1 million, were found in boxes in the cargo holds of two mainland vessels off Po Toi Island, southeast of Hong Kong, close to mainland waters during a search on Monday night. Eleven crew members, aged between 22 and 54, were arrested. Chief Inspector Thompson Lai Yuk-wah, of the Anti-Smuggling Taskforce, said the consignment had been issued with a health certificate by Thai authorities and was legally imported from Bangkok by cargo plane on Monday. However, there was no export document, he said. The terrapins were collected from the airport by an employee of a local company and taken to the cargo handling area in Hung Hing Road, Wan Chai. About 30 police and Customs officers then mounted a surveillance operation. That night, the boxes were loaded on to a fishing boat. Officers followed the vessel and saw crew transfer the terrapins to another boat off Po Toi Island, where police speedboats were sent to intercept them. 'Initial investigations showed the consignment was destined for Huiyang, Guangdong,' Mr Lai said. The terrapins - known as soi yue, or freshwater turtle - are a popular delicacy in many mainland restaurants. 'There is a demand for terrapins on the mainland because Chinese people believe eating soi yue is good for their health,' said Acting Assistant Superintendent Chan Tak-tai, of the Customs and Excise Department. 'Importing terrapins into the mainland needs approval from different Chinese authorities. To escape such restrictions and import tax, the suspects tried to smuggle them into China from Hong Kong.'