On the beach at Dadonghai on Sunday afternoon a small crowd, many of them local school children, gathered to watch a heart warming spectacle – a group of volunteers from Sea Turtles 911 returning a recently rescued sea turtle to its’ natural habitat, the South China Sea.


The volunteers, sporting lime green t-shirts, were an international mix with many coming from Singapore’s National University to spend their summer holidays in Hainan to experience first hand the efforts of Sea Turtles 911 to help turtles in the South China Sea.


Sea Turtles 911 rescues and rehabilitates and then releases sick or captured Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles, often taking turtles that have been found injured or accidentally caught by local fishermen. Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles are both endangered species.


The nonprofit organisation is dedicated to the conservation of Sea Turtles, their efforts being focused on the waters around Hainan Island. 


At their ‘hospital’, located on a floating fishing village near Ling Shui, volunteers conduct research and nurse the turtles back to health. They also raise young hatchlings in a nursery until they are old enough to fend for themselves.


Whilst the selling of turtle meat and eggs is illegal in Hainan there are still many threats to Sea Turtles in this region from natural predators, poaching and fishing to pollution – plastic bags look much like jellyfish, a favourite turtle snack.


Through education and rehabilitation Sea Turtles 911 are attempting to reverse the current trend, indeed some local fishermen are realising the importance of protecting these ancient creatures and bring the injured turtles they find to the hospital rather than sell them in the market.


However, for fishing communities that have fished the waters around Hainan for generations making a living through fishing these waters is becoming tougher, depleted fish stocks mean fishermen need to go further afield to find increasing meagre catches. For some the potential of earning RMB 3000 for a single turtle can be too tempting a prospect to pass up.


At Dadonghai beach, a new generation is learning all about Sea Turtles, young primary school children took an active part in the release back into the ocean of an adult sea turtle recently nursed back to full health by Sea Turtles 911.