US$6m turtle meat shipment bound for Hong Kong seized in Pakistan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 March, 2015, 4:57am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 March, 2015, 4:57am

A huge shipment of illegal freshwater turtle meat bound for Hong Kong has been seized by Pakistani customs.

Meat from more than 4,000 turtles valued at US$6 million was discovered at Karachi port where it was being shipped labelled as fish meat to an unidentified Hong Kong importer, officials said.

"This is the biggest-ever consignment of turtles seized in the history of the [Pakistani] customs," senior Pakistan customs official Irfan Javed said.

The shipment will be tested to find out which species of turtle were in the container.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department said: "We will continue to take stringent enforcement action and cooperate with other law enforcement agencies to combat sea smuggling activities."

Demand for turtle meat in China and Thailand threatens the protected black spotted turtle, also known as the black pond turtle, which is found in the Indus River.

The species is classed as risk from trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

"The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will continue to work closely with relevant agencies, both local and overseas, with a view to combating illegal trade in species listed in CITES appendices," a spokesman for the department said.

It was reported that about 200 black spotted turtles were smuggled from Pakistan into China's Xinjiang autonomous region in June of last year.

The animals were recovered by Pakistan officials.

A consignment of 217 live black spotted turtles destined for Bangkok was confiscated at Karachi airport in September last year.

Meanwhile, a sea turtle was found washed up on Sheung Sze Wan beach in Clear Water Bay yesterday.

The green sea turtle, which is native to Hong Kong waters, was discovered among rocks on the beach suffering from apparent breathing difficulties.

"It was breathing very, very heavily and had bubbles coming from its nose, which suggests it has fluid in its chest," said Dr David Gething, a local veterinarian who helped move the animal.

The turtle was picked up by officers from the SPCA and was then taken to Ocean Park for further assessment.