By Jerry E. Esplanada
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Coast Guard has lauded three fishermen from Aparri, Cagayan, who released back to the sea an endangered Pacific green turtle that was accidentally caught in their fishing net.
Citing a report from its Aparri station, PCG headquarters in Manila did not name the fishermen, but said it was encouraging other fisherfolk to follow their example should they also catch some endangered species.
Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, the PCG spokesperson, on Tuesday said “a Pacific green turtle (scientific name: Chelonia mydas), measuring 43 inches by 38 inches, was unintentionally caught in the net of three Aparri fishermen last Friday.”
“Immediately, the fishermen, in coordination with the Coast Guard station in Aparri, the PCG District Northeastern Luzon and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources office in Cagayan, released the creature off the coast of Barangay Punta in Aparri,” Balilo said.
PCG District Northeastern Luzon has been “actively campaigning to discourage marine turtle poaching and other illegal marine activities,” according to PCG headquarters.
Pacific green turtles, known for the green fat beneath their carapace or upper shell, grow to five feet long and weigh from 150 to 400 lbs.
As early as 1982, Pacific green turtles have been on the “Red List” or list of endangered species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In 2004, the IUCN reclassified them as not only endangered but also facing a high risk of extinction because of several factors, including probable population reduction of more than 50 percent and high exploitation levels.
In 2007, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species declared green turtles critically endangered.
Aside from global entities like the IUCN and CITES, many countries worldwide, including the Philippines, have undertaken conservation efforts, although serious threats remain unabated.
In some countries, Pacific green turtle skin is tanned and used to make handbags.
Turtles and their eggs are hunted for food. Their flesh is considered a culinary delicacy. Particularly for this species, its fat and cartilage are sought as ingredients in turtle soup.