Jump to content

- - - - -

Not Just Sharks Being Poached

  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 MikeVeitch


    1.7kbps Manta Boy

  • Senior Moderator
  • 6224 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:In Bali, Indonesia but from Vancouver, BC
  • Interests:Teaching Underwater Photography

Posted 25 December 2006 - 11:27 PM

From the Philippines, live capture and trading of Napolean Wrasse, Chinese boats poaching in Tubbataha Marine Park. Kinda shows how some govts just can't act to stop this stuff... Lack of funds, lack of resources etc


On December 21, a Chinese fishing vessel carrying an estimated 300 live
Napoleon Wrasses (locally called Mameng) and hundreds of other live fish,
pulled into the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. It was approached,
inspected then promptly apprehended by park staff.

Although the fish workers on board claimed they did not catch the fish
within Park boundaries, this species is listed under Appendix 2 of the
Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). The
Philippines has made international commitments to abide by CITES rules. In
other words, mere possession of this type of fish, without proper official
permits from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, is a crime.

The Chinese vessel reportedly carried only MARINA papers, showing that it
entered Philippine waters via Bonggao, in Tawi Tawi. There is no BFAR
officer in Bonggao that is authorized to give permission for harvesting live
Napoleon wrasse. Furthermore, no hatchery for this fish species exists, and
it is not cultivated for legal live sale anywhere in the country.

The Chinese crewmen also claim that they were just innocently passing
through the Philippines. Why, then, did they enter Park boundaries in the
very center of the Sulu Sea, and stop at Tubbataha Reef, instead of
proceeding along known international shipping lanes?

Upon receipt of the information, the Tubbataha Park office in Puerto
Princesa sought the assistance of the Philippine Navy and Wescom to take the
vessel to Puerto Princesa for confiscation of the illegal cargo, and
processing for arraignment of the crew. For some reason, Vice Admiral Danga
of Wescom did not give the authorization to transfer the vessel and process
the arrest, and none of the several Navy vessels in Palawan was available or
serviceable for the trip.

In spite of the fact that national media did not even hear of this incident,
an officer from the Chinese embassy suddenly arrived in Puerto Princesa
within 24 hours of the report. To add insult to injury, an official of the
Department of Foreign Affairs reportedly called Puerto Princesa to defend
the Chinese, saying that their arrest was irregular as they were merely
passing through Philippine waters.

The message is: what is patently illegal in the Philippines can be
perfectly legal if it is only a trans-shipment.

Part Two
4 days after a composite team from Tubbataha Ranger station boarded and apprehended the Chinese Fishing vessel HO WAN only less tha 1.5 km from station, the almost 300 gross ton vessel is still tied up tp a buoy at the protected National marine Park. It's Chinese crew of 30, including one female cook plus 800 live fish, including 300 of the Cites II Convention protected Napoleon Wrasse, locally known as mameng remain in the built in tanks.

The boat, which allegedly had Marina and Customs certifications but no valid fishing permit, originated from Bonggao, Tawi -tawi, where the crew claimed to have captured the fishes. However, Sec 97 of the New Fisheries code prohibits the taking of rare ,threatened or endangered species as listed in the Cites and as well those determined by the department. It carries a fine of 120,000 pesos and a prison term of 12-20 years.

The Boat is being detained at the reef pending the arrival of a navy escort into Puerto Princesa. However, the navy has not been able to provide such an escort bec it does not have a boat available. Governor Joel Reyes in the meantime had instructed Angelique Songco that should the navy escort not be forthcoming, to consider having some of the rangers themselves board the vessel and instruct the Chinese Captain to sail for Puerto Princesa. Congressman Tony Alvarez, under whose district the Tubbataha National marine park is under, has been trying to facilitate the delivery of fuel for one of the Navy boats presently in Puerto Princesa. When asked if it was true that the DFA was in favor of releasing the boat due to diplomatic ties, he replied "..that the DFA should use precisely those "ties" to impress on these foreign nationals that we take the protection of our environment seriously here in Palawan, and that we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who violate them."

The Chinese vessel claimed that it was enroute to Hong Kong , where the prized, live "mameng" can sell for as much as 200 US dollars per kilo. Lory Tan, CEO of WWF Philippines belittled the claim as he pointed out that the vessel was far from internationally defined shipping lanes and that all ships avoided the treacherous reefs spread out over almost a hundred thousand hectares.

The ship contained 11 small boats or sampans as well as numerous compressors. Vince Menase Jr , Secretary- General of the Alliance of Philippine Fishing Federation said that considering the type of equipment that was found on board, that authorities should test the fish for cyanide presence. He described the fishing method as follows: men on teh small boats surround the reefs and drop bottles filled with a mix of cyanide and 60cc of water. After allowing the contents to dissipate, they slip into the water to see if the fishes on the reef have been stunned, whereupon these are easily retrived by the men breathing from hookah hoses connected to the compressors" The fish are then transferred to the mother ship in holding tanks with water that contains dissolved aspirin to revive the fish. "The water from these tanks should likewise be tested" he said. Fishing with Cyanide carries both a prison term as well as a fine.

In the meantime, a man by the name of Nixon edora, Operations manager of sOUTH Pacific Inter-marketing Corporation which he claims to mange the vessel, has contacted the Tubbataha Management Office to say that they had the neccessary BFAR permits. Both Vince Menase and Lory Tan denied that this was possible. "Even us, filipino fishermen know that it is illegal to catch and sell the mameng. Why would the BFAR give a permit to a foreign vessel when they won't give it to us Filipinos."

Lory Tan said that the claim of Edora was preposterous, to begin with, "There is no BFAR office in Bonggao in Tawi Tawi with the authority to grant such a permit."

The Tubbataha Reefs is the only UNESCO World heritage Site in Asia that is marine in nature. It is known as the top dive destination in the Philippines and hundreds of divers visit the park every year, paying heavy access fees that are used to patrol the park boundaries. President GMA, a certified diver who has visited the park , through an Execuitive Order just signed a few months ago, extended the parks boundaries, originally at 33,2000 hectares to over 99,000 hectares. The area is described by marine scientists as a spawning and grow out sanctuary for both corals and fishes whose eggs are carried by oceanic currents to replenish overfished coastal reefs of not only palawan and the Visyan islands, but as far south as malaysia and Indonesia.

Senator Jamby Madrigal, also an avid diver and a regular Tubbataha visitor commended the rangers on their dedication and vigilance but likewise asked the authorities to see that appropriate cases be filed and that these cases are seen to fruition. She offered the assistance of her legal team should it be neccessary.

With no definite date of the arrival of armed escorts, BFAR Director Malcolm Sarmiento has given the order to release the fishes being kept in the tanks after having photos taken for evidence. "The Philippines has become the favorite destination for poachers. A strong signal must be sent that if poachers would come,they would be caught,tried, convicted and their boat confiscated.That's the only language those people understand." he said.
- Show quoted text -

Ironically the TRNMP was the subject of a summit held only a few weeks ago, where a covenant was signed by the various stakeholders to protect the reef.To add insult to injury, the Chinese embassy have sent word that they were filing a diplomatic protest and plan to sue the TMO for damages. In addition, they have requested the Philippine navy to escort the vessel out of Philippine waters.

Join us for an Underwater Photography Workshop at NAD Lembeh July 2015
Blog and Photo Archive/Portfolio Site www.mikeveitchblog.com
Learn underwater photography in Indonesia or Join me on a trip www.underwatertribe.com

#2 Drew


    The Controller

  • Video Expert
  • 10678 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:GPS is not reliable in South East Asian seas

Posted 26 December 2006 - 01:25 AM

Ah yes, Nappy Wrasse are coveted for their lips in Chinese restaurants. They wiped out plenty of Indonesia Islands (like the Togians) of the big wrasse in the last 15 years. Left the Togians with a big crown of thorn problem. I personally collect 56 crown of thorns in a campaign to manage the uncontrolled breeding due to lack of predators like the wrasse and triton shell.
The fishing fleets of most countries are often under the protection of their governments, mainly because of the vote issues. SInce China doesn't have that problem, the only other answer is that someone high up has vested interest or is related to someone who is.
Like the Mocambicans fighting back, the Philippino authorities are facing problems from a large donor country like China, hence the foreign affairs guys are bending over for the chinese.

"Journalism is what someone else does not want printed, everything else is public relations."

"I was born not knowing, and have only had a little time to change that here and there.

#3 MikeVeitch


    1.7kbps Manta Boy

  • Senior Moderator
  • 6224 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:In Bali, Indonesia but from Vancouver, BC
  • Interests:Teaching Underwater Photography

Posted 26 December 2006 - 02:00 AM

yep, and one of the places that it disturbs me the most?

Dragon Tei restaurant in Palau!! (and others as well)

Big fish like the Napolean are a big attraction to Palau. Diving tourism is responsible for a MASSIVE amount of the GNP of the country...yet, this restaurant continues to serve Napolean.

And of course who is their largest customer base?



Join us for an Underwater Photography Workshop at NAD Lembeh July 2015
Blog and Photo Archive/Portfolio Site www.mikeveitchblog.com
Learn underwater photography in Indonesia or Join me on a trip www.underwatertribe.com

#4 Rocha


    Salty Dog

  • Senior Moderator
  • 3074 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA

Posted 26 December 2006 - 11:08 AM

Amazingly sad... But just to give you an example that this is not restricted to third world countries. There is a huge community of spearfishermen here in Hawaii, and they have a magazine (http://www.hawaiiskindiver.net/) and a TV show on some local stations.

I was completely shocked a few months ago to see an article on Napoleon wrasse and dozens of dead ones in the magazine, and this is one of the few fish in the IUCN endangered species list. I wrote them an e-mail but got no answer. A few weeks ago I caught a glimpse of the TV show and they were spearfishing at the Marshall Islands. What were they shooting? Sharks and napoleon wrasses... That really p****s me off!

Oh, just in case, here is the IUCN red list link for the Napoleon:


I am part of the IUCN Groupers and Wrasses specialist group and we will meet in Hong Kong (yes, the center of all the commerce) next February to discuss this and other issues...

Luiz Rocha - www.luizrocha.com
Nikon D800, Aquatica AD800, Ikelite strobes.

#5 CamDiver


    Great White

  • Industry
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1103 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Indonesia
  • Interests:Filming and documentary production. Beach and surf photography. Family time, isolated beaches and walking the dog.

Posted 26 December 2006 - 04:34 PM

Mike and Co,
The Palauan government issued a complete carpet ban on the fishing of Napoleon Wrasse and Bumphead Parrotfish some 8 months ago. This is not a seasonal issue, its a long term issue aimed at allowing the species which were a heavily traditional source of local food, the chance to replenish their stock levels.



The Sharks of the Forgotten Islands

- A Natural History Documentary -

#6 MikeVeitch


    1.7kbps Manta Boy

  • Senior Moderator
  • 6224 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:In Bali, Indonesia but from Vancouver, BC
  • Interests:Teaching Underwater Photography

Posted 26 December 2006 - 08:10 PM

that is good to know Mark, glad to hear it

Join us for an Underwater Photography Workshop at NAD Lembeh July 2015
Blog and Photo Archive/Portfolio Site www.mikeveitchblog.com
Learn underwater photography in Indonesia or Join me on a trip www.underwatertribe.com