Colum’s Column: Chinese fishermen held in Philippines defiant ahead of turtle-poaching trial


Hugh Paxton’s Blog is inherently violent when it comes to wildlife crime and atrocities related. People do terrible things. Usually to other people but most frequently to other living things sharing our world. This is a disgusting example of the latter. I’m with Colum on his suggested penalty. This sort of behavior will not do!


From: Colum Muccio [mailto:colum_muccio]
Sent: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 1:09 AM
To: Hugh and Midori Paxton; Charlie & Kim Paxton; Jane Paxton
Subject: Chinese fishermen held in Philippines defiant ahead of turtle-poaching trial


Have you seen this? Makes you want to drive some stakes into their eyes and throw them to the general population. Might be a good campaign for ??? (who), though it would be hard to steer it around the rampant nationalism involved in the incident and keep it focussed on the environmental criminal aspect.


Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association, Guatemala
Asociación Rescate y Conservación de Vida Silvestre, Guatemala
(cc502)5704-2563, 7830-1374

> (Note: an earlier article reported how the surviving turtles were not
> releasable because of the method of restraint used in this case–a
> stick, inserted through the turtles eyes, was pushed through the head
> and tied with plastic string. See photo at link.)
> Chinese fishermen held in Philippines defiant ahead of turtle-poaching trial
> Hainan fishermen tell the Post they do not recognise charges as court
> proceedings begin on Tuesday amid growing tensions between Beijing and
> Manila in South China Sea
> PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 2:39pm
> UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 7:43pm
> Philippine police counted 120 live, 234 dead and an unspecified number
> of chopped up endangered sea turtles on the Qiongqionghai 09063. Photo:
> Philippine National Police Maritime Group
> In jail barracks on the outskirts of Puerto Princesa, the sleepy capital
> of the Philippine island province Palawan, a Chinese boat crew awaits
> their pretrial hearing on Tuesday at a court which they say they do not
> recognise.
> The nine fishermen from Hainan province face up to 20 years in a
> Philippine jail for illegally poaching and taking a record number of
> endangered turtles off the Philippine coast.
> The fishermen say they were in Chinese waters and that Philippine
> maritime police had no right to arrest them. Philippine police officers
> say the Qiongqionghai 09063’s crew used the territorial dispute between
> Beijing and Manila over the resource-rich Spratly Islands in the South
> China Sea as a ploy to avoid prosecution.
> “Our arrest is unlawful, because we were in Chinese waters,” said Chen
> Qiyuan, the 38-year old captain of the fishing vessel, as he sat idly on
> a bench in the Palawan Provincial Jail.
> “We do not recognise these proceedings.”
> Chen and his crew have refused to provide fingerprints, or sign court or
> jail documents seen by the Post. They pleaded not guilty during the
> arraignment in May.
> The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it has raised the cause of the
> fishermen with the Philippine government. "The Chinese side demands the
> immediate, unconditional release of the Chinese fishing vessel and the
> Chinese fishermen, and a guarantee that such incidents do not occur
> again," the ministry’s spokesperson’s office said in an e-mailed reply
> to written questions.
> For now, Chen’s crew is separated from the more than 1,100 Filipino
> inmates in the Palawan jail compound to avoid ethnic conflict, said a
> jail warden.
> “We get up around 6am and then chat and wait for evening to come,” said
> Chen. They were served two meals per day and provided additional food
> from the local Chinese community, he said.
> The crew of a Vietnamese vessel of wildlife poachers is also detained
> separately from the local inmates. “We don’t want them to fight over the
> territorial dispute,” said the warden, who declined to be named, because
> he was not authorised to discuss the matter.
> Chen said he had been a fisherman since he was 16 years old and came to
> the Spratlys four times a year to catch turtles. “I have always been
> doing this work, like my father, like all my ancestors,” he said. He
> left his home port Tanmen, Qionghai, in Hainan on April 25 for the
> disputed archipelago.
> Poachers sell turtles for as much as HK$6,000 each. Photo: Philippine
> National Police Maritime Group
> Photo gallery: Philippine police seize record haul of endangered sea
> turtles from Chinese fishing vessel
> Chen’s crew of 11, which includes his father Chen Zehao, 64, was
> arrested on the morning of May 6 by a unit of the Philippine National
> Police Maritime Group at the Half Moon Shoal, some 55 nautical miles off
> the Palawan coast, according to court documents seen by the Post.
> “Usually, they say they were drifted too close to the coast by a storm,”
> said a police officer with the apprehending unit. “This time, there was
> no storm. They couldn’t use it as an excuse.”
> Police counted 120 live, 234 dead and an unspecified number of chopped
> up endangered sea turtles on his boat at the time. After a review of the
> chopped up remains, the total number of sea turtles added up to 555,
> said one police officer, who was not authorised to speak on the record,
> citing the sensitivity of the territorial dispute.
> Two underage crew members have since been released for repatriation. The
> nine others are at the Palawan Provincial Jail awaiting trial on
> Tuesday. Charged under the Philippine Fisheries Code, they face up to 20
> years in prison.
> Chen’s catch marks a record in Palawan, said Adelina Benavente-Villena,
> chief of staff of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, who
> has been working in wildlife protection on the island province for over
> three decades. “It is frustrating,” she said. “What they are collecting
> are threatened species. If we are not successful in controlling this
> flow of natural resources, then one day we [will] wake up and ask ‘What
> have we done?’.”
> Adelina Benavente-Villena pointing to the approximate location of the
> arrest on May 6. Photo: Patrick Boehler
> Benavente-Villena’s office provides legal advice to police and
> prosecutors on how to deal with cases of taking of endangered wildlife.
> Whereas in the past fishermen and traders had been charged with
> “malicious mischief”, a vague crime punishable with short jail
> sentences, and illegal entry, in recent years more poachers have been
> charged under the fisheries code, with punishments of lengthy jail
> sentences and fines of up to US$100,000 per vessel, she said.
> But enforcement of such sentences has so far been lenient. Foreign
> poachers typically spent two to three years in Philippine jail, she
> said. “I haven’t heard of anyone paying the US$100,000 fine yet.”
> Benavente-Villena said Chen’s case marked the first time foreign
> poachers were caught along with local ones, indicating trade connections
> between the two groups. Police arrested five Philippine poachers on a
> separate vessel on the same patrol. They found cash in five currencies,
> including Hong Kong dollars and Philippine pesos on the Chinese vessel,
> according to the court documents. Chen said he was a fisherman and
> declined to comment on the trading allegations.
> Captain Chen Yiquan at the Provincial Jail in Puerto Princesa. Photo:
> Patrick Boehler
> The trade in turtles can be extremely profitable to local fishermen.
> Depending on size, they can sell a turtle for up to 35,000 Philippine
> pesos (HK$6,181) to foreign traders they meet at sea, according to two
> police officers.
> Local law enforcement lacks the capacity to tackle wildlife poaching
> said one law enforcement officer with the unit that made the arrest.
> “We cannot gauge any changes in poaching, because we have no way of
> telling,” he said. His maritime police unit patrols the province’s 1,700
> islands and almost 2,000 kilometres of coastline with only six boats. On
> average, each boat leaves for patrols only twice a week. “Our maritime
> interdiction is based on tip-offs,” he said. “The most difficult part of
> our work is dealing with local illegal poachers [selling to foreign
> vessels]. [The profits are] very tempting.”
> —
> Ann Michels
> Species Survival Network
> annmichels
> _______________________________________________
> SSN-list mailing list
> SSN-list

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