Fishers seen with turtles face charges for poaching
Allegedly violating the Philippine Wildlife Act and the Philippine Fisheries Code, 5 Filipinos and 11 Chinese fishermen manning two boats carrying 500 endangered turtles will face charges from Philippine government agencies.
“We intend to file charges for the violation of the Philippine Wildlife Act and Philippine Fisheries Code if they are proven to have poached in Philippine waters,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) chief Theresa Mundita Lim said according to a report by Rappler. Since Philippine sea turtles or pawikan are endangered animals that are protected by local and international conservation laws, charges will be filed jointly with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), a multisectoral body that decides on environmental issues in Palawan, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The sight of live and dead turtles on these boats when fishers were intercepted by PNP maritime group on Hasa-Hasa Shoal or Half Moon Shoal, 60 nautical miles from Palawan last May 6, may lead to a 12-year imprisonment or a fine of P1 million each (USD$22,600) under the Wildlife Act, said Lim.
The DENR will conduct a necropsy on the dead turtles and get a DNA sample which would help build up the case against the fishermen. Also, inventory of turtles will be conducted by the DENR-BMB in order to know how many of them are female. There is emphasis on the death of females since poaching female sea turtles lowers the survival rate of hatchlings even more. The DENR regional office in Palawan plans to tag the healthy turtles before releasing them back into the wild while sick or injured turtles will be rehabilitated in Palawan. Sea turtles’ great demand in China, Hong Kong Taiwan and Japan for their meat and shells, which are often used for jewelry, led to their now endangered status.
Though Hasa-hasa Shoal is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, this plan of filing charges is expected to incite another bellow from China, just as how they accused the Philippine authorities of “premeditated provocative act” to create more tension in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) when the Chinese fishermen were arrested.
The Department of Foreign Affairs assured that concerned authorities in Palawan will address the case “in a just, humane and expeditious manner.”