123 sea turtles seized from poachers

But law enforcers fail to arrest 6 unidentified suspects in Balabac, Palawan, a site for illegal poaching activities

MANILA, Philippines – It was a disturbing scene.

In a mangrove area in Balabac, Palawan, the Philippine Navy and local governments found 3 submerged cages containing 123 sea turtles, supposedly collected by poachers. They found 6 of these turtles dead and 117 stil alive.

The Naval Forces West and local officials seized these sea turtles but failed to arrest the suspected poachers, the Philippine Navy said in a statement Friday, November 30.

The raid took place at around 10 am on November 27. 

Made of fish nets and reinforced by mangrove branches, the cages measured 20 by 30 meters, the Navy said. Each cage packed around 30 sea turtles – species of which have been declared endangered.

SEASHORE SPECIES. Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are some of the species nesting on West Philippine Sea shores. File photo by WWF-Philippines/Gregg Yan

“The said interagency operation was intended to apprehend suspected poachers reported to be collecting sea turtles for eventual sale to allegedly Chinese financed buyers who were in cahoots with poachers operating in the waters off Balabac,” the Navy explained.

But the 6 unidentified suspects escaped using two small boats upon seeing the Navy. The Navy said it saw 4 nipa huts that could have served as outposts to monitor law enforcers nearby.

Poaching site

Philippine laws prohibit the collection and sale of sea turtles and corals. Several violations of these laws have been reported in Balabac, known for illegal poaching activities.

In July, authorities rescued 14 turtles in a net laid down by Chinese poachers. Explaining the poaching activities, local naval forces commander Major Ferdinand Atos said: “They enter the waters of Balabac, riding in a speedboat and they plant their nets, using their contacts among the locals.”

In April, law enforcers also arrested 20 Vietnamese poachers near Balabac.

The Philippines’ worst diplomatic row with China itself – the Scarborough Shoal standoff – was sparked by illegal poaching within waters claimed by both countries. – Rappler.com

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