Vietnamese held over Philippines turtle catch


MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines detained 12 Vietnamese fishermen and their Malaysian-flagged boat for collecting endangered fish and sea turtles and poaching, an official said Wednesday.

The Filipino coast guard intercepted four fishing vessels in the Sulu Sea off the Malaysian state of Borneo late Sunday, but three escaped as the fourth was being boarded, fisheries bureau director James Perez said.

“Unfortunately we apprehended only one because the three other vessels resisted,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Officials found humphead wrasse, an endangered species of fish, on board the detained boat and about 50 sea turtles, including critically endangered hawksbill turtles, already dead and smothered in ice in its hold, he added.

“This is a Malaysian-flagged vessel, but the crew are Vietnamese,” he said. “We have filed a criminal complaint against them.”

The hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, grows up to 85 centimeters (33 inches) and can weigh up to 75 kilograms (165 pounds).

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says it is “critically endangered” because it has been exploited for years as the sole source of commercial tortoise shell.

The humphead or Napoleon wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus, which grows up to 2.3 meters and weighs up to 191 kilograms, is one of the world’s largest reef fish.

Swiss-based IUCN classes it as “endangered” and says its numbers have fallen hugely over the past 30 years, a situation that it predicts will accelerate further due to rising live fish demand.

Catching or trafficking in critically endangered Philippine species is punishable by a six-year prison term and a million-peso ($23,000) fine, the environment department said.

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  • PHtaxpayer

    I actually swam and got to touch a huge hawksbill turtle swimming off Apo Island last Easter.  They are beautiful creatures and must be protected.  I was trying to catch it by hand but it was just playing with me and going around our dive boat.  I couldn’t imagine killing such a beautiful animal. He was looking at me in the eye and knew I wanted to catch him couple of times but knew I could not swim as fast as him.  LOL

  • Ben-Hur Viloria

    Please correct the name- its Humphead Maori Wrasse for Cheilinus undatus as there is another Humpheaded Wrasse- Coris aygula. Better stick to Napoleon Wrasse to avoid confusion.

  • reddfrog

    So much for asking ASEAN to join us in the fight against the Chinese.

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