Poachers destroy coral reef twice the size of Manila

(SPOT.ph) A coral reef in Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea nearly twice the size of Manila was destroyed at the hand of poachers who harvested over 21,000 pieces of black coral, reports Inquirer. Marine life, including 161 endangered turtles, was killed in the process.

 

Bureau of Customs officials two weeks ago recovered 134 bundles (21,169 pieces) of "sea fan" black corals and 15 bundles (196 kilograms) of "sea whip" black corals after intercepting the contraband, revealed Inquirer. Customs Police Director Nestorio Gualberto pointed the crime at wildlife trader Exequiel Navarro who consigned the contraband. Gualberto told Inquirer that the corals were carried in two container vans and were declared as rubber.

 

However, the damage has been done. Ludivina Labe, a senior marine biologist of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said in the report that they also discovered 7,300 pieces of seashells with the turtles. One of the turtles had been over three feet long and was approximately 80 to 100 years old.

 

"(The illicit trade) is being fueled by the demand of the multibillion-dollar marine ornamental industry for exotic decorative species and the increasing popularity of coral-accented jewelry and fashion accessories," Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said in Inquirer’s report. "Nobody should profit from the rape of the ocean," he added. The crime is contrary to the Fisheries Code of 1998, cited in the article, that bans the gathering and selling of corals, punishes violators with imprisonment and a fine.

 

"This is saddening because we have reduced this illegal trade and now we catch something as big as this," said Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

 

Inquirer reported that some of the contraband could be given to marine biology school while the dead black coral could be returned later to sea. Alvarez said that the corals were worth at least P35 million. "It took 25 years or even more for these corals to grow like this. They grow only one centimeter a month," said Labe.

 

For more on this story, log on to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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