The accused had been taken into naval custody for a wide range of offences which included engaging in fishing without valid passes, using unauthorized fishing nets, engaging in night diving to catch fish, illegal possession of shark fins, conch shells and sea cucumbers as well as transportation of sea turtle eggs for sale.
"The accused held in these operations were identified as residents of Mannar, Pallekuda, Pooneryn, Chunnagam, Vankalai, Nachchikuda, Bogaswewa, Vedithalativu, Arippu, Uppuweli, Sallisambaltivu, Kalpitiya, Negombo, Kandakkuliya, Kudawa, Puttalam, Norochcholai, Vennappuwa, Wadduwa, Dikwella, Gandara, Iranawila, Ja-Ela, Alawwa, Hambantota and Jaffna areas, from 19 to 67 years of age," the Navy said.
Sri Lankan waters are home to five of the seven species of marine turtles i.e. Olive Ridley turtle, Loggerhead turtle, Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle and Leatherback turtle.
All marine turtle species found in Sri Lanka are listed as endangered on the country’s National Red List and are legally protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Act.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s Marine Turtles Specialist Group have also recognised the impact of fisheries as the biggest threat to marine turtles.
However, laws alone can’t address the threats, Lalith Ekanayake, the chairman of the Bio Conservation Society (BCSSL) said, adding that there needs to be greater awareness among fishing communities about their role in the issue.