SIDEBAR: Who spears a turtle?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 June) — If the spear shaft recovered from ‘Agdao,’ the injured turtle (see main story)now being nursed back to health was shot by a spear fisher-diver, who could he be?

A comparison of the recovered spear from the turtle and those being sold in a local dive shop for sports enthusiasts, the Carabao Dive Center where this writer frequently dives, reveals that while the spear that wounded Agdao is made of iron and is rusty, the ones used by scuba divers are made of stainless steel. A sports spear-fisher diver, Eric Te, says their arrows do not rust and serious enthusiasts like him respect and follow the law.  To Te, the arrow we showed him is locally manufactured. Theirs are imported.

Comparison of three spear shafts. The leftmost is the shaft retrieved from the body of ‘Agdao’; the one in the middle is a shaft on sale; and the rightmost is a sports spear fisher-diver. Photo courtesy of OSCAR C. BREVA

The difference can be seen in the picture of the three shafts — the scuba diver’s, the dive center’s, and the recovered spear.

This information is confirmed by a trader, Larry Sarcadio, who deals with local commercial spear fisher-divers and claims familiarity with the spear shaft recovered from ‘Agdao.’ He says it is similar to the ones used by local divers who spear for a living using locally manufactured shafts like the one shown him. He also says that for a big turtle spanning one meter, its strength can bend that type of spear.  A dive center staff, Mark Castillon, agreed with Sarcadio saying that this type of spear is used by local spear fisher-divers in his hometown in Davao Oriental.

Gelaine Arguillas, chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Protected Area Management section in the Davao region also notes that for the triggerman to be able to come face to face with ‘Agdao’ to spear her at the angle as when they found the shaft, he must have stayed under water for some time discounting fishermen who stay on the surface to have been responsible due to the angle of the shaft lodged in the neck of the turtle.   Dr. Ken Lao, the animal doctor who treated Agdao and removed the spear, confirms the angle of the spear that he extracted from the turtle.

Turtle ‘Agdao,’ a hawksbill sea turtle, has a bulge on her neck after being pierced by a spear. She was found in early April 2018 by fishermen off the coast of Agdao in Davao City and is currently under the care of Roche Manib, Sr. and the rest of the staff of the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park, a wildlife conservation area in Punta Dumalag, Davao City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

This writer tried to get in touch with divers who spear for a living but they do business off and on and were not available when he went to a specified place in the hope of meeting them.

The spear shaft taken from the body of turtle ‘Agdao.’ Photo courtesy of OSCAR C. BREVA

The DENR and Fermin Edillon of the Punta Dumalag pawikan conservation park cautions, however, that turtles are migratory creatures and if her wound was weeks old, if not months, when she was found, ‘Agdao’ could have been speared somewhere else and not necessarily in Davao.

In the end, Carabao Dive Center owner-operator Dick Hurlbut says that “the jerk who speared ‘Agdao’ will not likely be caught unless he brags about it in a drinking spree and his drinking buddies rat on him.”

“Who in his right mind spears a turtle?” Hurlbut barks, shaking his head. (Oscar C. Breva  is a Davao City-based lawyer and diver. He was managing editor of Atenews at the Ateneo de Davao University in 1977-1978 and before proceeding to Law school at the Ateneo de Manila University, wrote for the San Pedro Express, a Davao City newspaper edited by the late Alfrredo Navarro Salanga. He ranked fifth in the 1985 bar exams).