PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – Authorities intercepted a boat carrying 70 dead critically endangered marine turtles off the coast of Dumaran town in northern Palawan on Thursday, July 6.
While conducting a seaborne patrol operation, the joint elements of the Dumaran Municipal Police Station and Bantay Dumaran intercepted the boat in the coastal vicinity of Barangay Bacao at around 2:30 pm on Thursday.
Authorities discovered that the boat, operated by owner Rico Gonzales Jr and crew member Kim Aristotiles, was headed to Balabac, an island town in the southernmost part of Palawan known as a backdoor for wildlife trafficking.
An inventory of the boat’s cargo revealed butchered marine turtles placed inside transparent plastic bags and sacks, all collected from Barangay Maytegued, Taytay, a town in the northern part of mainland Palawan.
Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) staff identified the recovered marine turtles as critically endangered Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Regardless of species marine turtles are internationally and nationally protected from poaching that decimates their population in the wild. Marine turtles are sought after for their meat, eggs, and shells.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists all 7 species as Appendix I, meaning commercial trade is banned and illegal.
The confiscated cargo was turned over to the PCSD in Puerto Princesa on Friday morning, July 7.
Authorities are set to file charges against the suspects for violating Section 102 – fishing or taking care of rare, threatened or endangered species – of Republic Act 10654 or the amended Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. – Rappler.com
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