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12 Vietnamese fishermen arrested off Jolo

ZAMBOANGA (Updated) -- Twelve Vietnamese fishermen have been arrested for poaching endangered marine turtles, black corals and reef fishes in southern Philippines waters.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) head Asis Perez said the Vietnamese and their Malaysian-flagged fishing boat were apprehended Monday by Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and BFAR operatives 23 nautical miles (43 kilometers) off Pangutaran town in Jolo, Sulu.

PCG Lieutenant Ludovico Librilla Jr., in a statement sent to Sun.Star, reported that the foreign fishing boat was sighted in the area together with three others heading for Malaysia.

Vietnamese fishermen arrested in Jolo on April 25, 2012
The Malaysian-flagged fishing vessel that was apprehended off Jolo, Sulu. (Photo courtesy of BFAR)

Librilla, who led the joint operations Wednesday, said his team is supposed to conduct a search and rescue operation of a passenger vessel, M/L Windolyn, which encountered an engine problem and is believed to have drifted elsewhere in the area last April 12 when they sighted the fishing boats.

He said while they intercepted one, the three others managed to flee toward Malaysia.
The coast guard said inside the boat were 50 pieces of dead marine turtles locally known as pawikan, five bundles of black corals and reef fishes, including the high-value but vanishing Napoleon wrasse and mameng.

The turtles, black corals and mameng are listed as endangered and/or threatened species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Cites is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

It had indicated that the population of marine turtles had extensively declined in all major ocean basins over the last three generations as a result of overexploitation of eggs and adult females at nesting beaches, as well as the juveniles and adults in foraging areas.

Vietnamese fishermen arrested in Jolo Vietnamese fishermen arrested in Jolo
Vietnamese fishermen arrested in Jolo Vietnamese fishermen arrested in Jolo
Vietnamese fishermen arrested in Jolo Vietnamese fishermen arrested in Jolo
Photos courtesy of BFAR (Click to enlarge)

On the other hand, mameng is considered vulnerable because the bulk of the fishery for live fish, in east Malaysia, southwest Philippines and Indonesia (the major suppliers for the live reef fish trade and the centre of the species’ range) is selective for juvenile sized fish, since this is the preferred size class for consumers and gains the highest prices.
Mameng has a long life span of at least 30 years and becomes sexually matured only at six years.

Republic Act (RA) 8550, otherwise known as the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, prohibits poaching or the catching and taking of fish and other aquatic products by foreign fishing vessels in the Philippine waters. Section 87 of the Code slaps a fine of US$100T in addition to the confiscation of catch, fishing equipment and fishing vessel.

Moreover, the fishing or taking of rare, threatened or endangered species listed in the Cites such as mameng, black corals and pawikan is punishable by imprisonment of not less than 12 years or more than 25 years of imprisonment, a fine of P100,000 to P120,000 and forfeiture of catch as stipulated in Section 978 of RA 8550.

BFAR said administrative and criminal cases are being prepared against the fishermen.
The agency has intensified its campaign against illegal and destructive fishing, including poaching in the Philippine waters, together with the Philippine Coast Guard, the local government unit and other stakeholders. 

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SunStar.Com.Ph | April 25, 2012 | Article Link

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