BFAR chief orders probe on ?Mameng? trading in GenSan

The endangered fish species sells for 200 dollars a kilo in HongKong and is being sold at the fish port complex here.

Christopher Dearne, a scuba diver, alerted the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) about the illegal trading here, in a letter dated April 25 to BFAD regional director Sani Macabalang.

"As of now, this fish can be found on an irregular basis for sale in the fish port and several other places in the area," Dearne said in his letter.

"We are trying to determine who and where these Mamengs are caught for appropriate legal action," Macabalang said.

He said Dearne bought and showed him the Mameng procured from one of the popular seafood stores in the city.

"The fish meat was even labeled with the word “Mameng," Macabalang said.

Dearne, owner of the Tuna City Scuba Center, stressed that sightings of Napoleon Wrasses are very rare in most areas and could easily become extinct in Philippine waters if the illegal trading goes on unchecked.

Napoleon wrasse is listed under Appendix 2 of the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

The collection, possession, transport or trade of these fish is illegal under Philippine law. Mere possession of a single fish carries a fine of P120,000 with a prison term of between 12 and 20 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund-Philippines.

In December 2006, 30 Chinese poachers were arrested off Tubbataha Reef Natural Park's South Atoll, a national marine protected area where entry without authorized clearance is strictly prohibited.

More than 2300 high-value fish, including live Grouper, Red Snapper and 359 endangered Napoleon Wrasses were discovered in the Chinese vessel's hold.

Reports said the Chinese claimed they bought the Mamengs from local fishermen through a legal permit acquired from the BFAR. But BFAR’s national chief, Malcolm Sarmiento quickly refuted the claim, stating that no government agency can issue a permit to capture the protected Mameng.

Under Philippine law no buying, fishing or export permits can be issued for any CITES listed species, WWF said.