P5M worth of seashells, turtles seized

Posted on May 22, 2012


ABOUT P5 million worth of illegally traded seashells and sea turtles were confiscated in the Cebu City Port yesterday.
Two container vans delivered by Aleson Shipping Lines from Zamboanga City contained 1,120 dead hawksbill sea turtles, green sea turtles and hundreds of helmet shells.
Both sea turtles and helmet shells are protected by Philippine law and its international trade is prohibited by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites).
Helmet shells play an important role in the marine ecosystem since they eat one of the most damaging predators of coral reefs, the crown-of-thorns starfish, locally known as dap-ag.
“It was confiscated because the seashells are already considered an endangared species and the shipment lacked legal documents, ” said Nathaniel Lucero, fishery law enforcer of the Burea of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Rolando Punzalan, Philippine Cost Guard (PCG) Station Commander, said he received a text message from an informant about the shipment and immediately alerted government agencies.
The PCG joined forces with the BFAR, Bureau of Customs, PNP Maritime and the nongovernment organization Ocean Care in the operation.
Mario Marababol of Ocean Care said the shipment was worth at least P5 million.
Helmet shells, locally known as budyong ,and the hard shells of sea turtles, locally known as pawikan, are in demand here and abroad as home decor and accessories.
Lucero said the shipment was abandoned before authorities arrived so the identity of the owner remains unknown.
“We’ll do our best to find out the consignee so that we can file legal charges against him but, that won’t be easy,” Lucero said. /Careen L. Malahay, Correspondent

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