Denpasar, Indonesia -

Police in Bali have seized 33 endangered green and hawksbill sea turtles believed to have been poached to be sold to restaurants on the Indonesian resort island, officials said on Monday.

Marine police found the live turtles on a boat docked in Tanjung Benoa on Sunday night, said Bali police spokesman Senior Commissioner Hariadi.

“We are still looking for the suspected smugglers,” said Hariadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. The turtles were believed to have been caught in the sea off Sulawesi island, he said.

The turtles weighed between 30 and 60 kilograms and were worth between 5 million and 7 million rupiah (518-725 dollars) each, said Soemarsono, head of the local government-run Nature Conservancy Agency.

They measured between 30 centimetres and 1 metre in length.

“Some of them are sick because of dehydration,” he said.

Soemarsono said the smuggling of rare turtles from elsewhere in Indonesia into Bali was rampant owing to high demand.

Some restaurants in Bali illegally sell turtle meat. Sea turtles are also commonly sacrificed in traditional Balinese Hindu ceremonies.

The green turtle is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

It is illegal in most countries to hunt and catch green turtles.

The hawksbill turtle is considered to be critically endangered by the World Conservation Union and is protected in Indonesia under a law on biodiversity protection. - Sapa-dpa