Two Malaysian-registered fishing vessels carrying over 50 endangered assorted species of sharks and rays with 20 Vietnamese crewmen were seized by a Philippine Navy patrol craft (PC) 375 in Mangsee Island, Balabac, May 19.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) field officer Mario Basaya said Tuesday that the Malaysian vessel was seized around 9:30 a.m. at 32 nautical miles southeast of Mangsee Island.
Basaya said the area where they conducted fishing is a known feeding ground of the marine animals.
“Sa pagitan ng Malaysia at ng boundary doon nagpi-feeding ang mga ito kapag ganitong buwan. Kadalasan daw hindi nila makuha pero kapag ganitong pahanon doon sila. Kaya ganyan karami ang nakuha kasi pumupunta sa mababaw,” he said.
BFAR inventory team also counted more than 20 different species of manta rays, 16 black tip reef shark, and 20 white tip reed sharks.
Scalloped hammerhead, golden whipray, blue-spotted sting ray, reticulate whiptail, narrow tail ray, leopard whipray and mottled eagle ray were also some of the species identified.
They also recorded shark fins being dried and sliced in the storage areas of the boat.
“On-going ang verification natin kung ilan talaga kasi ang mga nakuha nila, kasi hindi lang naman itong nandito sa labas mayroon pang mga pinatuyo na at sliced,” Basaya said.
He added, they still have to identify where to dispose the sharks and rays.
Rene Sabio, Vietnamese interpreter told Palawan News that the crewmen are residents of a coastal village located a kilometer away from Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.
They were being hired by a Malaysian businessman to operate the fishing vessel, he said.
“First time nilang magtrabaho sa Malaysian fishing company, syempre para kumita. Hindi daw nila alam na nakapasok na sila sa Philippine territory although may GPS, hindi nila kabisado,” Sabio said.
The boat captain was identified as 42-year old Vo Qouc Phong.
BFAR, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and other concern agencies are currently filing the appropriate criminal and administrative case for illegal entry and poaching.