Malaysian authorities said on Thursday they had seized 2,900 turtles eggs and detained a Filipino who tried to sell them in a market on the island of Borneo, where they are considered a delicacy.
Saizal Hussin, an official with the marine police unit in Sandakan, in Borneo's eastern Sabah state, told AFP the eggs worth around 5,200 ringgit (almost 1,500 dollars) were smuggled from the southern Philippines.
Police arrested the man and intercepted two boats believed to be involved in the smuggling operation on Tuesday, Saizal said.
He said that officials expected such smuggling operations to increase in the coming months, with the egg-laying season stretching from June until September.
"We expect more smugglers to enter Malaysia to sell turtle eggs as they fetch higher prices here amid strong demand," he said.
Saizal said the turtle eggs had been handed to the wildlife department who may release any hatchlings that survive back into the sea.
In April environmental group WWF launched a campaign to stop Malaysians eating turtle eggs, in a bid to help save stocks of the marine creatures.
Turtle eggs are openly sold in markets in parts of Malaysia. Turtles once arrived in their thousands to lay their eggs on Malaysian beaches, but are now increasingly rare due to poaching and coastal development.
Under Malaysian law, it is illegal to collect turtle eggs without a permit from the fisheries department, but steady demand for turtle products and eggs in Southeast Asia continues to drive the trade.