Group formed to protect endangered timprinted braceletsurtles

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One of 37 sea turtles recently confiscated in Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region is released in Sanya, Hainan, on Tuesday, the same day the China Sea Turtle Conservation Alliance was established. [Photo by SHA XIAOFENG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

A new group dedicated to the protection of endangered sea turtles was formed in Sanya, Hainan province, on Wednesday, the 19th World Turtles Day.

The group, calling itself the China Sea Turtle Conservation Alliance, released 37 confiscated turtles into the ocean in Sanya.

"The establishment of the alliance will lift sea turtle conservation work to a new level," Li Yanliang, head of the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association, said at the founding ceremony.

The alliance comprises more than 90 members, including the fisheries administration of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs; the National Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Association; fishery departments in Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong and Liaoning; universities and colleges; social groups, NGOs and enterprises; and media organizations.

Regarded as a "living-fossil" and a symbol of good luck and longevity in China, sea turtles have been living on Earth for more than 250 million years.

But only seven species have survived - leatherbacks, greens, loggerheads, hawksbills, olive ridleys, kemp"s ridleys and flatbacks - as human activities such as the illegal trading of turtle meat, eggs and shells, habitat destruction, marine debris and global warming have threatened the turtles" survival.

All species of sea turtles were listed as Class II protected species in China in 1988, and efforts have been made to stop the trafficking of sea turtles.

A total of 28 turtles were rescued in a monthlong campaign launched by central government departments earlier this year, according to Zhang Xianliang, director of the agriculture and rural affairs ministry"s fishery administration.

More than 2,000 sea turtle products were confiscated in Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan last year.

A total of 6,000 items of aquatic wildlife parts and products that were confiscated from those regions were destroyed in Sanya on Wednesday. The illegal products included red coral reef specimens, giant clams, green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles - about 40 metric tons in total, valued at more than 100 million yuan.

"The event showed the Chinese government"s attitude and determination to crack down on crimes against wildlife," Zhang said.

He noted that China has designated sea turtle conservation areas to protect spawning grounds, including the Huidong National Sea Turtle Nature Conservation Area in Guangdong province, the only one of its kind in the country. Sea turtle protection stations have also been established in Sansha, Hainan.

"China has been conducting scientific research on sea turtles for years to better understand the creatures and figure out the right ways to protect them," Zhang said.

He added that the country will carry out a series of measures in the future. An action plan for sea turtle conservation is likely to be implemented within the year, more nature reserves will be built and more science research and law enforcement efforts will be carried out, he said.