Published 15 September 2008

Vietnamese fishing crew arrested in the Philippines for marine turtle poaching

Hanoi, Vietnam, 15th September 2008—On 29 August, two boats from a Philippine’s-based task force found 101 Hawksbill Turtles drowned in the cargo of a Vietnamese fishing vessel off the coast of the Philippines. The crew of 13 Vietnamese fishermen was taken to El Nido in the Philippines, where they are likely to be charged with breaking both the Philippine’s Wildlife and Conservation Protection law and the Philippine’s Fisheries Code of 1998. If convicted, they face substantial fines and up to six years in prison.

More than 100 Hawksbill Turtles were drowned in the cargo of a Vietnamese fishing vessel off Palawan, the Philippines © Cat Holloway / WWF-Canon  

Azrina Abdullah, Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, praised the Philippine authorities for their action, but emphasized that the story begins and ends with the consumer. 

“While TRAFFIC is encouraged to see this seizure and applauds the Philippine authorities for their swift action, it represents a sad day for the conservation of this endangered turtle. 

“Continued excessive consumption of the Hawksbill Turtle will drive these graceful and beautiful creatures into extinction.”

Hawksbill Turtles Eretmochelys imbricate have long been hunted for their meat, eggs, shell and skin. Of the seven species of marine turtle, the Hawksbill is particularly coveted for its shell, which is the source of the common “tortoiseshell” pattern found in jewellery, combs and brushes, and for its body, stuffed and sold as a curio to tourists. Marine turtles are commonly caught as bycatch in shrimp trawl nets, gillnets and long lines of fishermen and increasingly face the alteration and destruction of their natural habitats. The Hawksbill is highly threatened: its population has decreased by more than 80% in the last Century and it is classified by IUCN as Critically Endangered.

All marine turtles are listed in Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), which prohibits international commercial trade of turtle products. However, illegal trade of marine turtles and their products continues unabated. In Palawan, the site of the recent seizure, over 1,000 foreign poachers have been arrested in the past decade, but only one case has led to an indictment.