300kg of dried shark, stingray meat seized

By Marlon Ramos

Calamba City, Philippines — More than 300 kilograms of dried shark and stingray meat were seized by fisheries officials onboard a Vietnamese fishing vessel caught poaching off an island in Balabac, Palawan over the weekend.

Paciano Gianan, provincial fisheries officer of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Palawan province, said the 10 Vietnamese crew members of the boat Tang Long were arrested for illegally encroaching within Philippine waters.

In a mobile phone interview Monday, Gianan said the Vietnamese poachers were charged before the public prosecutor’s office in Puerto Princesa City for violation of the Section 87 of the Fisheries Code, which prohibits poaching by foreign nationals inside the Philippine territory. “The Vietnamese fishermen will be turned over to the local jail in Puerto Princesa as soon as they finish the inquest proceedings (on Monday) afternoon,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

Gianan said the slaughtered sea animals were cut into pieces and sun-dried. “The sharks and the manta rays were already cut into pieces. The poachers were apparently after the shark fins,” he said. He said the Vietnamese poachers were using “long line” fishing gears which proved that they were after sharks, tuna, manta rays and other large pelagic sea animals.

Gianan, however, said they failed to recover any fresh shark fins from the fishing boat.

“It’s possible that they have already sold the shark fins or concealed it somewhere,” Gianan said. Soup and other food preparations made from shark fins command high price in Asian restaurants and are famous among Chinese, prompting fishermen from China and other Asian countries to hunt for sharks all over the Pacific Ocean.

Environmentalists said the number of sharks in the seas had dwindled through the years. The disappearance of the species was moving at an alarming stage because of poaching.

Source: 2/4/07 – an excerpt from http://www.inquirer.net