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Asia Dive News : Chinese poachers caught in the Philippines with endangered marine turtles

Local authorities patrolling the Sulu Archipelago in the southwest Philippines apprehended a Chinese fishing vessel with a cache of illegally caught marine turtles.

Officials counted over 200 of the endangered species, mostly green turtles. Most were found dead, but nine surviving turtles — seven male and two female — were released back into the sea

“This is by no means the first time that foreign nationals encroached upon Philippine waters to plunder its rich but dwindling marine resources,” said WWF-Philippines Project Manager Filemon Romero.

According to WWF, 900 foreigners have been arrested in the past nine years for poaching in Filipino waters. More than 660 of these poachers were from from China.

“While we are not lacking environmental laws, enforcement and the political will to see these cases through leads much to be desired,” added Romero. “We are hopeful that the accused who committed these environmental crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Chinese crew caught with the marine turtles has been charged with violating the Philippines' Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act. Penalties can incur a fine of up to PHP1 million (US$21,500), coupled with a six-year jail term.

The poachers were caught in the Sulu-Sulawesi Ecoregion, a 900,000km2 area that hosts a diverse range of biodiversity, including coral reefs, hundreds of fish species, and five out of seven of the world’s marine turtles.

In the Philippines, as well as throughout the world, WWF is working to reduce: the loss and degradation of critical marine turtle habitats; the negative impact of bycatch on marine turtles; and unsustainable use and illegal trade in marine turtles and turtle products.

Source: WWF