MANILA, Philippines – Authorities recovered a live hawksbill sea turtle from two fishermen in Zamboanga City last Saturday, June 7.
The two fishermen were intercepted by a joint team of Coast Guard personnel and maritime police on patrol in the vicinity of Santa Cruz Island.
Upon inspection of their motor pumpboat, authorities found the critically-endangered sea turtle, more commonly known as pawikan.
Authorities towed the pumpboat with the suspects and sea turtle to the Zamboanga Coast Guard station. The pawikan was turned over to the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO).
The CENRO found the pawikan to be around 10 years old with a length of 18 inches and a width of 13 1/2 inches. They estimate that the animal would have commanded P600,000 to P1 million in the market.
After examination, the sea turtle was released in seawaters near Santa Cruz Island.
The two fishermen are in the custody of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, awaiting the filing of appropriate charges.
If proven guilty of poaching, they may face up to 12 years in prison or a fine of up to P1 million each ($22,600).
Reported cases of poaching proves that the market for endangered wild animals is alive and kicking.
Sea turtles are in great demand in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan for their meat and shells often used for jewelry or for medicinal purposes.
Early May, Chinese fishermen were caught off the coast of Palawan with around 500 living and dead hawksbill sea turtles. – Rappler.com