Tawi-Tawi police, LGUs tighten watch against tropical fish smuggling

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/06 August) – The Tawi-Tawi police in coordination with the  local government units in the province has tightened its watch against smuggling of tropical fish in the province, Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Tawi-Tawi police director said.

Jocson said  they intercepted and confiscated at least 13,000 live tropical fish twice last week at the Sanga-Sanga port.

Jocson, who is also a scuba diver, said the order to tighten watch against tropical fish smuggling was issued by Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali.

But Jocson said no one was arrested  last week allegedly because the perpetrators fled  “upon sensing our presence.”

He said they confiscated five wooden-hulled “Palakayas” boats, air compressors and oxygen tanks used in compressor-dive fishing.

Consisting of different species, the intercepted fish shipment was packed in plastic bags, placed inside styropore boxes and was ready for shipment to this city, he said.

“Eventually it will be shipped to other parts of the country before they will shipped it abroad,” Jocson said citing some of the confiscated tropical fish species command high prices in other countries.

Among the tropical fish species confiscated were ribbon eel, clown fish, blue tang or the surgeon fish, cleaner shrimp, Angel emperor and baby sharks.

Jocson said he believes there is a syndicate behind the smuggling of the tropical fish species which rakes in a huge amount of money.

“Some of the species we confiscated are being sold at as much as $150 (at least PhP each abroad,” he added.

Based on information they gathered, Jocson said the catchers of tropical fish are paid only PhP 2 each.

He said collecting marine and terrestial species within Philippine waters categorized as wildlife endangered resources is a violation of Republic Act 9147 otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

He said the gathering and collection of tropical fish will affect the livelihood of the fishermen since the production cycle of edible fish will be cut.

He said the tropical fish serve as “guards” of eggs of edible fishes and corals against parasites.

“Kung wala ng tropical fish, the eggs of the edible fish will not be hatched dahil kakainin na ito ng mga parasites,” he said.

Tawi-tawi comprises 11 towns and is rich in marine resources. (MindaNews)