MANILA, Philippines – Marine authorities in Tawi-Tawi said they have confiscated at least 50 dead sea turtles and bundles of rare corals from a Vietnamese fishing boat while docked at the port of Bongao town on Tuesday, April 24.
The seized items, which are classified as endangered species under maritime laws, were intended to be smuggled to other countries.
The Philippine Coast Guard Station in Bongao said the dead turtles were found along with 5 bundles of Black Corals inside SBF 48, a Vietnamese-registered fishing boat, during a routine inspection. The contraband was “concealed inside a refrigerated fish cargo hole located at the port side of the vessel.”
Bureua of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Asis Perez has confirmed that charges have been filed against the boat’s 12 crew members, who were all Vietnamese, for violating laws forbidding the collection and sale of sea turtles and corals.
The cases, citing violations of Republic Acts 8550 or the Fisheries Code of the Philippines and 9147 or the Wildlife Act of the Philippines, were filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 5 in Bongao.
Among the different sea turtles, the Hawksbill turtle is commonly found in Tawi-Tawi and has been classified as critically endangered. Hawksbill shells are used for decorative purposes, while Hawksbill eggs and meat are cooked as a native delicacy. – Rappler.com