Last year, 150 cetaceans and 269 sea turtles washed up on the nation’s shores, the Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) said yesterday, blaming improper fishing activities for many of the injuries.
Most of the animals were dead when they washed up, the agency said.
Of the beached whales and dolphins, the bodies of 77 were severely rotted, making it difficult to determine why they became stranded, while 33 were bycatch, it said.
Photo courtesy of the Ocean Conservation Administration
Of the beached cetaceans whose species were identified, 43 were finless porpoises, followed by 30 bottlenose dolphins, 13 pygmy killer whales, 10 Fraser’s dolphins, six pygmy sperm whales, six dwarf sperm whales and six Taiwanese humpback dolphins, it added.
Of the beached turtles, 240 were green sea turtles, 13 were hawksbill sea turtles, eight were loggerhead sea turtles and eight were olive ridley sea turtles, the agency said.
Data from the agency showed that 207 sea turtles were dead when found, while 31 were bycatch and seven were entangled in discarded fishing nets.
Plastic debris was found in the feces of 24 sheltered sea turtles and the digestive systems of dozens of dead sea turtles, the agency said, drawing attention to the effects of human activities on marine life.
The number of beached cetaceans and sea turtles has been rising over the past three years, the agency said.
People becoming more active in reporting beached marine animals might have contributed to the increase, while long-term research is needed to determine the cause, OCA Marine Conservation Division senior specialist Ko Yung-chuan (柯勇全) said.
The agency last month in Taitung County documented the biggest marine animal to wash up on the nation’s shores — a 24m whale entangled in fishing nets.
It was first thought to be a fin whale, but after dissecting and analyzing the carcass, the agency on Feb. 10 announced that it was likely the first blue whale to wash up on Taiwan’s shores since records began.
The agency plans to hold a symposium on the whale in May to share its findings with experts, Ko said, adding that some Japanese researchers have expressed an interest in the issue.
A video showing the dissection has been posted online at youtu.be/IW5a8wKW0Ak.
While the agency’s Marine Animal Rescue Network, which involves dozens of non-governmental groups and research institutions, has been active for nearly a year, rescue work has been mainly supported by volunteers, including veterinarians, who are not properly paid or covered by insurance, Ko said, adding that the agency is seeking a larger budget to fund rescue efforts.
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