Community efforts to curb poaching of endangered sea turtles in Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines, have been backed by local Moro folk seeking the immediate enactment of a bill to declare an island in the province a protected turtle sanctuary.
Tawi-Tawi congressional representative Ruby Sahali said members of the provincial maritime police and Department of Environment and Natural Resources representatives unit last week released to the sea 15 green sea turtles and 19 Hawksbill turtles found in a boat abandoned by armed poachers after a firefight with police five nautical miles off neighbouring Sipangkot and Sitangkai islands.
Sahali had earlier proposed the declaration by Congress of the Turtle Island in the province as a ‘protected area’, which would put the island under the direct control of the Protected Area Management Board. “The aim is to effectively prevent encroachment by poachers hunting for sea turtles and gathering turtle eggs [and\ to hasten the implementation of projects complementing the government’s sea turtle and conservation programmes,” she said.
The island, about 100 miles off the provincial capital Bongao, has earned the moniker ‘Turtle Island’ because it serves as a nesting spot for endangered sea turtles.
Mindanao peace activists and environmentalists have joined locals in supporting the proposals. Locals currently put markers on the spot where turtle eggs are laid and help guard the area from poachers and animal predators.