Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
April 25, 2012
12 Vietnamese poachers apprehended in Sulu waters 50 butchered pawikan discovered on-board
Twelve Vietnamese fishermen onboard a Malaysian-flagged fishing vessel were apprehended recently by the joint operatives of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources following hot pursuit operations along the waters off Sulu.
PCG Lt. Ludovico Librilla, Jr. who led the joint operations on-board BFAR MCS 3009 patrol vessel reported that the foreign fishing boat was sighted in the area together with three (3) others heading for Malaysia.
Librila said that their 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.
However, the joint operatives spotted four (4) foreign fishing vessels, and successfully intercepted one of them, SBF-48, at the vicinity 23 nautical miles off Pangutaran in Jolo, Sulu. The three others fled towards the Malaysian borders.
Librila reported that upon initial inspection, the foreign vessel contained various kinds of high-value reef fishes, shellfishes and other invertebrates, including mameng or Napoleon wrasse.
Further search inside the boat’s hull revealed 50 pieces of dead marine turtles locally known as pawikan and five (5) bundles of black corals.
The turtles, black corals and mameng are listed as endangered and/or threatened species under CITES, short for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 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.
CITES 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..
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.
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. Sec. 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 P100T-P120T and forfeiture of catch as stipulated in Sec. 978 of RA 8550.
BFAR is now preparing all the necessary documents for filing of administrative and criminal cases against the poachers.
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.
Atty. Asis G. Perez