A fishing boat carrying 19 fully-grown dead thresher sharks was apprehended by Philippine authorities just off the northern coast of Cebu Province on Wednesday, September 21.
A joint task force consisting of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) boarded the ‘RB Sweet Angel’ after she was found fishing in the Tañon Strait between Cebu and Negros islands in the Central Philippines.
The 161-kilometre Tañon Strait, which became a popular area for both whale-and dolphin-watching, was declared a protected seascape via presidential decree in 1998.
The authorities immediately seized the vessel and her crew upon discovery of her onboard cargo of dead thresher sharks in addition to 70 buckets of assorted fish species.
The thresher sharks that were found on board belong to the species Alopias pelagicus, which is categorised as “vulnerable” under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
These same sharks, easily distinguishable by the elongated upper lobes of their tail fins, are found in significant numbers in the waters just north of Cebu, thus making the area a popular recreational dive site.
Despite their vulnerable status, pelagic thresher sharks continue to be prized in some regions, with a fully-grown six-metre adult able to fetch as much as US$12,400.
The DENR has charged the crew and the owners of the RB Sweet Angel for violating the National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Act and the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act of 1992.
Nelson E. Dela Cruz
Alex Baird is the Managing Director of Baird Maritime