Wed, Jun 12, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Diver faces charges in Siaoliouciou for stomping on turtle

By Chen Yan-ting and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A tourist is pictured abusing a green sea turtle in waters off Pingtung County’s Siaoliouciou Island on Monday.

Photo provided by the Coast Guard Administration’s Southern Branch

A diver is being prosecuted for allegedly stomping on a sea turtle on Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球), the first time someone has been charged with harassing protected marine life on the island.

A local resident reported the diver to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

The diver reportedly told CGA officers sent to investigate on Monday that he and other divers had not touched the turtle, but he later confessed when shown a video that shows him stomping on the reptile, the Liouciou Township (琉球) Office said.

The diver’s alleged actions were first reported by an “angry resident” who stormed into the local CGA office at 2pm on Monday, the township office said.

“Stomping on a turtle is going too far,” the township office quoted the resident as saying.

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he was filming marine life near Vase Rock (花瓶岩) on the north side of the island when he unexpectedly recorded the diver stomping on the turtle.

After receiving the report, CGA office Director Chen Ya-tse (陳雅澤) dispatched officers, who tracked down the man using surveillance cameras, the township office said.

CGA official Liu Cheng-te (劉政得) said that he had confirmed with National Taiwan Ocean University Institute of Marine Biology professor Cheng Yi-chun (程一駿) that the turtle in the video was a green sea turtle, a species listed as endangered in Taiwan.

The diver’s alleged actions were in contravention of Article 18 of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) and he could be subject to punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of NT$60,000 to NT$300,000, Liu said.

If the diver’s alleged actions result in the turtle’s death, then the maximum jail term would be increased to two years and the fine to between NT$100,000 and NT$500,000, he said.

Article 18 of the act stipulates that it is illegal to harass, mistreat, hunt or slaughter wildlife.

Siaoliouciou residents greatly respect marine life, so visitors are strongly advised to avoid touching, disturbing or feeding wildlife, Liu said.

Anyone who encounters harassment of marine life anywhere in the nation should call the coast guard at 118 and report the incident, he said.

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