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Palawan smugglers caught with bodies of 70 critically endangered turtles

The haul of endangered turtles. Photo from the Facebook page of Frederic Dayao

A boat carrying the bodies of 70 Hawksbill turtles — a critically endangered species — was intercepted off the coast of Palawan yesterday (Thursday, July 6).

The boat, operated by owner Rico Gonzales Jr and crew member Kim Aristotiles, was apparently on the way to Balabac, an island town at the southernmost tip of Palawan which is notorious for wildlife trafficking.

After boarding the boat at 2.30pm, local officials from Dumaran town found the dead turtles wrapped in plastic bags and sacks. It is believed they were taken from Barangay Maytegued, Taytay, a town in the northern part of mainland Palawan.

According to Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) staff identified the turtles as critically endangered Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).

Regardless of species, marine turtles are internationally and nationally protected from poaching. Marine turtles are sought after for their meat, eggs and shells.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora lists all seven species as Appendix I, meaning all commercial trade is illegal.

The confiscated cargo was turned over to the PCSD in Puerto Princesa this morning.

Authorities are set to file charges against the suspects for violating Section 102 – fishing or taking care of rare, threatened or endangered species – of Republic Act 10654 or the amended Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.