(SPOT.ph) Authorities discovered a large stash of corals and shells inside a trading company in the village of San Roque, Zamboanga, on Saturday, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
"We saw a still undetermined, huge volume (of corals and shells), much bigger than what were seized in Manila," Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez told the Inquirer, referring to the two 20-foot container vans caught with bundles of black corals in May. A team of experts tasked to determine and identify the items in the stash discovered porcelain clams (Hippopus porcellanus), a protected species, the harvesting of which is illegal.
While investigations are underway, Chief Superintendent Elpidio de Asis, chief of the Western Mindanao police, suggested that some of these trading companies are legitimate, and are unaware of purchasing smuggled items. However, Perez disagreed, adding that a highly organized syndicate could be behind the smuggling. "There's really a pattern... It's a pretty well thought of operation, it's not something you do on impulse."
According to the report, currently, only five percent are left of the Philippines' coral reefs. While the reefs can adapt to major climate and other environmental changes, it is unsure how they can survive under additional stresses from humans, Dr. Portifiro Alino of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute told ABS-CBN News. Eight to 20 percent of the total fisheries of the country come from coral reefs, and about 70 percent of the incomes of small island communities come from fisheries, she added.