By Celeste Anna Formoso
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan — A Philippine Navy patrol craft has taken under its custody a Malaysian fishing vessel with 20 Vietnamese crewmen and also seized over 60 assorted species of endangered sharks and manta rays found on board.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) field officer Mario Basaya said Monday that the Malaysian-registered vessel was seized around 9 a.m. on Saturday around 32 nautical miles southeast of Mangsee Island, Balabac in this province.
“There were 13 hammerhead sharks in their fishing vessel which is a highly protected species. So aside from illegal entry, they will be charged for poaching. There are actually three vessels but the other one was left in Mangsee as it could not run, and the others managed to get away,” Basaya said.
The boat captain was identified as 42-year-old Vo Qouc Phong.
Aside from the hammerheads, the BFAR inventory team also counted more than 20 different species of manta rays, 16 black tip, and 20 white tip sharks.
In hidden areas and storages of the boat, the BFAR and a team from Enforcement Unit of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) also recorded shark fins being dried.
“We will have to verify these figures because the way we look at it, there are so many,” he said.
Rene Sabio, the interpreter for the Vietnamese, said they are residents of a coastal village just a kilometer away from Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.
He said the men were hired by a Malaysian businessman to work as the fishing vessel’s crew.
“They said it is their first time to work for the Malaysian fishing company, and they just want to earn a living. They did not know that they have already entered the Philippine territory as it was only their second day when the Philippine Navy caught them,” said Sabio.
PCSDS Enforcement Unit officer Michelle Sabuya said the 20 Vietnamese fishermen were scheduled to be brought to the Palawan Prosecutor’s Office for inquest.
cover photo: Celeste Anna Formoso
originally posted at Philippine New Agency http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1036054