Stealing from their own backyard: Story of a Pawikan poacher

The moon is up and full, the sea is calm, and the wind blows a soft breeze. While most of us may enjoy these scenes on our beach vacations and most likely are doing nothing on the beach, just savoring the moment.

But in a small village in Balabac municipality, the shore is bustling with activity. Some households are preparing their Jungko, small to medium, long speedboats powered by motors.

The preparations are most often done after dark to avoid being seen by others but many of the residents will not mind them as they themselves have or had been in the same “activities”.

There are a lot of preparations to do. From the loading of the food provisions, preparing the hoses of Air Compressors and the fishing nets.

Everything seemed to be ordinary in this fishing village. Except that there is a significant difference. Unlike regular fishing net with small “eyes” (holes in the fishing nets) of the net, notable for this one are the large eyes of the nets. This is because the operation is no ordinary fishing. It is the the “Pawikan” (giant sea turtle) fishing!

The reason why these poachers were working discreetly is because located in the heart of the town’s Poblacion is the substation of the SPECIAL BOAT UNIT, a special wing of the PNP-Maritime Group equipped composed highly-trained personnel and high end US-donated Patrol Gun Boats with the tasking of enforcing the laws of the land especially in the maritime setting, as well as ensuring the protection of our environment, aside from their regular duties as police officers. (a separate article will feature these dedicated guys.)
Below is a video of boat maneuvers performed by the Special Boat Unit:

Back to the boat, the fishermen are all set and ready to go. They are taking advantage of the full moon, as this is the right time to “fish” the Pawikan because of the abundance of these lovely creatures feeding on the reefs. They are taking advantage of the natural feeding and breeding grounds of Pawikan in this particular region.

The fishermen positioned their boats several meters from the shore, in such a way that the reefs are in between them, and then they would lay the nets so that any passing Pawikan gets caught. They would leave the area and observe from the distance, either from the safety of their homes or from their boats. A few hours later, these vicious men would return to harvest their catch. They must be quick to haul the nets or else, these poor Pawikan, being reptiles that breathe air, may certainly die.
(Sea turtles are almost always submerged, and, therefore, have developed an anaerobic system of energy metabolism. Although all sea turtles breathe air, under dire circumstances they may divert to anaerobic metabolism for long periods of time. When surfacing to breathe, a sea turtle can quickly refill its lungs with a single explosive exhalation and rapid inhalation. Their large lungs have adapted to permit rapid exchange of oxygen and to avoid trapping gases during deep dives.) Source:www.Wikipedia.com/seaturtle
personnel from PNP maritime group Special Boat Unit (SBU) prepares to release a green sea turtle back to its natural habitat, after being recovered from the poachers. amp

These creatures traveled halfway around the globe after years of a voyage to lay their eggs on the same spot where they hatched to complete the cycle. However, because of greed, the cycle is disrupted and there is almost no chance of continuation. Thankfully, these men are not always successful. Caught by surprise by a PNP maritime patrol conducted by SBU, the perpetrators will abandon their catch and leave the area. Also, acting on a tip of concerned citizens, the SBU will proceed to check the report.

Several recoveries have been done by this unit, but most of the time, the bad guys were able to elude the authorities. many of you may ask why, given the fast speed boats. well, these guys work on vast coral reefs as the southern Palawan is home to some of the country’s premiere coral reefs. The police gunboats are designed for speed but have a deep draft which hinders our maritime police officers to enter the same area where the poachers laid their nets. The boat captain needs to navigate slowly to avoid protruding rocky corals, lest they will damage the very same environmental features that they protect, or worse, the Police gun boat’s outboard propeller will be damaged.

The rescued Pawikans are released back into the wild as seen in this video:

The poachers, if successful after collecting a considerable number of Pawikan, will then transport these poor guys to Hasa-Hasa (Half-moon) Shoal located about 60 Nautical miles west of Palawan in the disputed West Philippine Sea, where Chinese fishermen/poachers await and buy the poor turtles. a rough estimate of 5000 pesos to 50,000 pesos is the pricing apiece. it is said that Pawikan poaching is a very lucrative underground business for a faraway and less prioritized community.

Effectively, these Filipino poachers are stealing from their own backyards. In exchange for a monetary amount, they are willing to destroy the environment, risk the extinction of a lovely creature, and betray his own country. Personally, I believe that they are not just guilty of Violations of wildlife act but must be considered traitor of the country.

For now, what our police force could do is rely heavily on the tips of the concerned citizens, heightened patrols and more effective intelligence gathering activities.

For comment, suggestions and to report, please leave a comment.

Marinong Pulis
This blog is an attempt by the author to create an alter-ego that is not bound by rank, hierarchy or politics. One that does not represent his personal character but rather shall remain as an identity purely found online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine − 2 =