sea turtle
This photo of a man sitting at the back of a huge sea turtle prompted DENR to reiterate it warning against catching and abuse of the sea creature considered as endangered by the department.

PARANAS, Samar, Aug. 10 (PNA) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reiterated its warning to fishermen not to catch sea turtles following the capture of the reptile last week in Marabut town.

DENR Regional Director Leonardo Sibbaluca issued a directive to field personnel to step up watch in coastal areas to ensure that people do not catch and slaughter endangered species like sea turtles locally known as pawikan.

“It’s good that someone informed our forester who advised locals to release the captured pawikan back to the sea. Fishermen would have slaughtered the reptile if authorities were not informed,” Sibbaluca told reporters on the sidelines of equipment turnover in this town.

On August 5, Jessy Amora, a fisherman of Pinamitinan village in Marabut town caught a leatherback sea turtle. The reptile was released back at sea after 10 hours, according to Sibbaluca.

Shirley Galaza, Marabut town agriculture officer and DENR personnel witnessed the release around 11:00 a.m. on the same day.

According to a spot report submitted by the DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources Office at nearby Sta. Rita village in Marabut, the turtle known as “pawikan” was caught in a fish net by Amora at 1:30 in the morning one-kilometer offshore of Pinamitinan village.

The leatherback turtle (Dermocheleys Coriacea) categorized an endangered specie measures six feet in length, 34 inches in width of carapace and 18 inches thickness. The weight was unknown.

The photo of the pawikan tied to a bamboo post and showed a man sitting on top of it was posted in Facebook (FB) social media by a certain Jose Lastimado became viral. Netizens and environmentalists reacted furiously including the group, Marine Watch of the Philippines.

DENR Bureau of Management Biodiversity (BMB) Theresa Mundita S. Lim alerted the DENR regional office to take appropriate action.

It is called leatherback turtle because of its leathery and rubbery shell that is a distinct characteristic from the common hard bony turle shells.

The DENR will conduct an investigation through the local chief executive and the Environment Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) lawyers.

Under sections 27 and 28 of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Act, penalty will be imposed by the DENR to the person who was pictured riding, sitting and tying it in the post.

The DENR has been campaigning for the protection of the environment and deputized Wildlife Environment Officers. It also conducted trainings on Environmental law Enforcement in Coastal and Marine Areas in partnership with Tanggol Kalikasan lawyers Ronely Sheen and Genee Mislang with ELAC lawyer Ronnan Christian Reposar.

The DENR is intensifying efforts for the protection of pawikans under the Pawikan Conservation Project. Mere possession and killing of this species under Wildlife Act is punishable under the law. (PNA)