Manila — Philippine authorities arrested 13 Vietnamese fishermen after being found with nearly 300 protected sea turtles in waters near Palawan province, according to reports.
The fishermen were caught on Friday in waters near the South China Sea where the government says foreign poaching of endangered or protected species has become a problem.
“Upon initial inspection, it was found out that the said foreign fishing vessel is loaded with undetermined pieces of dead sea turtles,” said Benigno Caabay, an officer at the Palawan police provincial headquarters.
The 13 are being detained at a police camp in the western province of Palawan while police look into filing a case against them, he added.
Sea turtles are protected by Philippine law and catching them can land offenders at least 12 years in jail.
Philippine authorities have caught foreigners, often Chinese, either catching or buying sea turtles in waters near Palawan frequently in recent year.
Environmentalists have been calling for stronger action against poachers.
Pressure from the foreigners’ governments has often resulted in having the charges dropped or lessened, and the perpetrators quickly deported back home.
Caabay said the turtles were frozen and packed tightly in the cargo section of the vessel.
He stressed that they were all protected under Philippine law, and experts are working to determine what species they are, said a report.
Turtles are often used in traditional medicines or served as a delicacy in many Asian countries. Image/worlds-smartest-man.com