CALAMBA CITY, The Philippines -- Personnel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) arrested 10 Vietnamese fishermen who were caught poaching within the Philippine waters off an island in Balabac, Palawan, aboard a large fishing vessel over the weekend.
Malcolm Sarmiento, BFAR director, said the Vietnamese poachers were on board a 200-ton fishing vessel when they were chanced upon by the BFAR personnel aboard patrol boat MCS 3002 while fishing off Mangsee Island at around 6 a.m. on Saturday.
“The BFAR patrol boat was on a mission. Our personnel were on a routine inspection when they saw the large Vietnamese boat poaching in the area. The Vietnamese fishermen were really caught in the act,” Sarmiento said in a mobile phone interview.
Together with elements of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Sarmiento said the BFAR personnel immediately told the foreign poachers to stop what they were doing and boarded their fishing vessel for inspection.
During inspection, the BFAR and PCG team were “surprised” to discover several slaughtered sharks and manta rays inside several boxes, Sarmiento said.
“The sharks and the manta rays were already cut into pieces. The poachers were apparently after the shark fins,” he said.
He said the Vietnamese poachers were using “long line” fishing gears, which proved that they were after sharks, tuna, manta rays and other large pelagic sea animals.
Sarmiento said they had yet to account for the actual number of slaughtered sea animals as they had yet to finish the inspection of the boat.
He said the Vietnamese poachers immediately underwent medical check up and were brought to a jail shortly after they arrived in Puerto Princesa at around 11 a.m. Sunday.
Their boat, on the other hand, is now docked at the Puerto Princesa port under the custody of BFAR. He said the foreign fishermen had been charged with illegal poaching in Philippine waters.
Soup and other food preparations made from shark fins command high price in restaurants and are famous among Chinese. These are among the reasons why fishermen from China and other Asian countries hunt for sharks all over the Pacific Ocean.
Environmentalists said the number of sharks in the seas had dwindled through the years and was at an alarming stage because of poaching.
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