P5M worth of shells, turtle carapace intercepted

CEBU CITY -- About P5 million worth of horned helmet shells (scientific name Cassis cornuta) and turtle carapace were confiscated by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Cebu Tuesday afternoon in Pier 2, this city. The seizure was made after the PCG received information about the arrival of “endangered, threatened, and rare” sea creatures from Zamboanga City, using the port of Cebu as a transit point. Have something to report? Tell us in text, photos or videos. The PCG was able to intercept two 10-footer vans aboard a vessel at Pier 2. The shipment was declared as B powder, an explosive material, but authorities found it contained 139 boxes of horned helmet shells and 20 boxes of cut sea turtle carapace. “This is the first and biggest confiscation of prohibited marine life this year,” said Cebu Coast Guard Commander Rolando Punzalan. CEBU. Col. Rolando Punzalan (left) of the Philippine Coast Guard and Nathaniel Lucero (center) of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources inspect horned helmet shells and turtle carapace, which were seized from a container van at Pier 2, Cebu City. (Alex Badayos) Nathaniel Lucero, fish examiner of the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources in Central Visayas, said the shipment could be part of the smuggled black fan corals seized in Manila last year. He added it is possible that the trader of the prohibited items tried to lie low after the seizure of the corals, which is why the shell shipment surfaced only now. Team Lucero said about 1,100 sea turtles could have been killed after 20 boxes were recovered. Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the region formed last Monday a team to strengthen the protection of marine turtles. “The task force is created to pursue and initiate an aggressive protection and conservation movement of the endangered marine turtles which are now on the verge of total depletion,” said DENR-Central Visayas Executive Director Maximo Dichoso in a statement. The gathering, collection, distribution and possession for sale of mollusks belonging to the genera of Triton, Charonia and Cassis are prohibited under Fisheries Administrative Order 158, which was issued in 1986. Endangered Cassis cornuta has not been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) but six marine turtle species are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN. The PCG said the consignee of the cargo is a trader based in Mindanao. Lucero said the horned helmet shell is exported as home décor, while the turtle carapace is used for medicinal purposes and as accessories. Lucero urged law enforcers to be alert for similar shipments. He said the confiscated shells will be given to schools, where they can be used to teach students about the importance of conservation. Task Force Pawikan will also launch an information campaign about marine turtles in the community. Investigation The team was created by a regional special order issued by Dichoso. Among the functions of the team is to conduct field investigations or surveillance on trading, hunting, sale and killing of marine turtles. The order is in response to reports that ambulant vendors in Barangay Pasil, Cebu City sell sea turtle stew. Dichoso is urging people to help protect the sea turtles by not buying and eating the dish. “Killing, destroying, inflicting injury, trading, collecting, hunting, and possessing these critically endangered species is punishable under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 or Republic Act 9174,” he said. (DSM/BAP/Sun.Star Cebu) Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 23, 2012.