Philippine authorities have seized 15 endangered marine turtles — 14 alive and one dead — from Chinese traffickers near the island of Palawan in the coastal region of Balabac. The Manila Bulletin states that the 14 surviving turtles were released.
Although reports did not indicate the turtle species, the group Save Philippine Seas notes that five species of marine turtle are found in Philippine waters: Hawksbill (Eretmocheyls imbricata), Olive Ridley (Lepidocheyls olivacea), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea).
Major Ferdinand Atos, commander of naval forces in the area, told the Manila Bulletin that informants shared information about Chinese traffickers who had planted a 660-foot (200-meter) net with the assistance of local contacts.
Wildlife traffickers frequently bring their ill-gotten quarry to Half-Moon Shoal in the Spratly islands, claimed by both China and the Philippines.
In April 2012, Chinese fishermen were caught “taking sea turtles and other protected species from Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea”.
A standoff was ignited in the disputed area when Chinese government ships blocked Philippine authorities’ attempt to arrest the traffickers.
Philippine officials have also vowed to crack down on local restaurants which continue to illegally serve dishes made from protected marine turtles.