Attempt to smuggle endangered corals foiled
Customs and BFAR officials stop the shipment of a cargo that contains local endangered coral species

SMUGGLING. Inspectors find endangered corals to be illegally shipped to Japan. Photo by Jedwin Llobrera

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) foiled a plan to illegally export some endangered local species of coral.

Authorities confiscated on Friday, July 13, some 33 boxes containing 149 pieces of endangered coral set to be shipped to Fukuoka City in Japan. Permit papers showed that the boxes were allowed to contain only “live tropical marine fishes,” but inspectors found corals hidden underneath the fish instead.

“The said corals were wrapped with newspapers and placed in a plastic seal, making them appear like tropical fish to avoid detection,” the inspectors’ report said.

The boxes were consigned to Media Net Corp in Japan, and were supposed to be exported by Seri International Enterprises. They were likewise supposed to be shipped to Japan via Asiana Airline.

The Customs bureau issued a warrant of seizure and detention against the shipment, and recommended that the corals be turned over to BFAR.

ILLEGAL CARGO. Undeclared corals are found along live fish in styrofoam boxes. Photo by Jedwin Llobrera

Republic Act 8550 says it is unlawful to fish and smuggle endangered species out of the country. Besides confiscation, punishment for violating this law includes imprisonment of 12 to 20 years, payment of a P120,000 fine, and cancellation of fishing and export permit.

Disregarding RA 8550 also constitutes a violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which the Philippines has been a member since 1981. –

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