At least 30 green sea turtles have been found dead off a beach of a remote Japanese island, with many having been stabbed in the neck.
Locals on Kumejina island made the discovery last Thursday, after a low tide revealed the bodies.
At least one fishing operator admitted to wounding the animals to remove them from fishing nets, said news site the Mainichi. Police are investigating animal cruelty claims.
“I disentangled some of the [turtles] and released them into the sea, but I couldn’t free [the] heavy ones so I stabbed them to get rid of them,” an unnamed fishing operator told a close source, said a report by the Mainichi.
Local media reported police had deployed officers to the scene last week, but it’s not clear if any action has been carried out.
Green sea turtles are listed as an endangered species by Japanese authorities and global conservation groups.
They’re known to frequent the seaweed and kelp beds off Kumejina, one of the tiny islands about 2,000km south of the Japanese mainland, where there are also active conservation efforts.
Marine biologists and other workers from the island’s Sea Turtle Museum had rushed to the beach after the turtles were discovered, but most had already become motionless by then.
Several had stab wounds at the base of their necks, while others were also slashed in their flippers. Pictures released by the museum show the animals floating in shallow water.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” one museum employee told The Asahi Shimbun.
“It is extremely difficult to process this.”