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Endangered turtles seized

Posted on: April 16, 2009

Endangered turtles seized
Chinese poachers nabbed

By Alcuin Papa, Anna Valmero
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:47:00 04/15/2009

Filed Under: Conservation, Animals

MANILA, Philippines—Local fishermen and environmental officials in Palawan helped nabbed Chinese poachers attempting to make away with 14 endangered sea turtles, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) said.

WWF, in a statement, said the seven Chinese poachers were arrested off the Cadlao Isle in northern Palawan on April 7.

Gregg Yan, WWF-Philippines information officer, said a composite team from the Municipal Environmental Desk Officer (MEDO) and Joint Task Force Malampaya (JTFM) responded to text messages saying an unidentified speedboat was fishing right inside El Nido’s municipal waters.

After a brief chase, the unmarked speedboat was apprehended near Cawayan Island.

Recovered from the boat were carcasses of 13 green sea turtles and one live turtle struggling in the suspects’ nets.

The surviving turtle was quickly tagged and released by the staff of the El Nido – Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area Office (ENTMR-PAO).

Also recovered were fishing paraphernalia, including a five-kilometer long net.

“These are but the latest in a long line of poachers who encroach upon Philippine waters to plunder our nation’s dwindling marine resources. Each turtle killed is a fast-forward button towards extinction. We have to raise the stakes and be more serious in persecuting offenders if we are to stamp out this trade,” said WWF Project Manager RJ de la Calzada.

JTFM Commander Esteban Castro also said they will continue to protect northern Palawan’s marine sanctuaries. “These loathsome and illegal acts only abuse the country’s natural wealth.”

The Chinese poachers were identified as Lu Chong, Huang Chia Phong, Seo Mu, Lu Cheng, Young Huo Pao, Li Pang Yao and Tan Sia Fong.

They will be charged for violating the Philippine Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act (RA9147) which carries a penalty of up to one million pesos and a six-year jail term. They can also be charged with illegal incursion and violation of Republic Act 8550, or the Fisheries Code of 1998.

Foreign turtle poachers are no strangers to the waters of El Nido.

Despite the vigilance of local government and military units plus the support of WWF, poachers continue to hunt down sea turtles which are endangered species.

The shells of the animals are used for fashion jewelry, combs and brushes.

In July last year, four Vietnamese fishermen were arrested for alleged poaching off Guntao Isle in El Nido. Four other fishing boats, believed to be Vietnamese, escaped at that time.

A month later, 101 dead hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) were recovered from a Vietnamese fishing vessel five nautical miles east of Cabaluan Isle, El Nido.

In April this year, the 23-man crew of the vessel Quang Mei were arrested in Balabac, southern Palawan. Recovered from the craft were assorted fish and a sea turtle.

The bodies of the 13 green sea turtles are now bound for an El Nido burial lot where the remains of 101 hawksbill turtles are also buried.

In 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has classified the green sea turtle as endangered species due to its constantly declining population.

The most detrimental human threats to green turtles are the intentional harvests of eggs and adults from nesting beaches and juveniles and adults from foraging grounds.

Mortality associated with entanglement in marine fisheries is the primary incidental threat, said IUCN on its website.

“As a collateral task, we shall continue our support for the protection of northern Palawan’s marine sanctuaries. These loathsome and illegal acts only abuse the country’s natural wealth,” said de la Calzada.

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