More ‘Hot’ Shells

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Medic Mike

THE Cebu Provincial Anti-Illegal Fishing Task Force yesterday found the warehouse where endangered shells are stored, almost a month after a truck carrying the said items was intercepted in Minglanilla town.

The warehouse is in Talisay City, where a dead pygmy sperm whale was also found Wednesday night.

At 1 p.m. yesterday, Capitol chief security officer Loy Anthony Madrigal and members of the task force seized about 200 sacks of shells believed to be endangered from a warehouse in Barangay San Roque in Talisay.

The lawyer of the warehouse owner questioned the legitimacy of the operation, and noted the absence of a search warrant.

Upon inspection of the shells, Madrigal identified six types of shells that are found in the chart provided by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar).

The chart shows photos of marine animals that should not be taken out from the sea.

Among the shells identified were smudged moon scallop, smooth top shell, helmet shells, bullmouth helmet, white-toothed cowrie and prince cowrie.

When Bfar officials arrived, they identified at least one type of shell that is endangered.

Randolph Corrales, aqua technologist of Bfar’s Fisheries Quarantine, said the giant clam found in the area is an endangered shell.

Last June 25, the task force headed by Madrigal intercepted a truckload of endangered helmet and triton shells.

Four men were charged before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for allegedly violating Republic Act 9174, also known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

The four men allegedly transported endangered shells worth P2 million.

In an interview, Madrigal said one of the suspects told him that the warehouse of the shells is in Talisay City.

Madrigal and members of the task force placed the warehouse under surveillance.

Yesterday, they saw stacks of shells in the warehouse. There were also vehicles inside.

The warehouse can easily be seen from the South Road Properties, near the entrance of Barangay San Roque.

Madrigal said shells are collected by the owners allegedly for export.

Around 4 p.m. yesterday, the legal counsel of the warehouse owner arrived and asked Madrigal what was going on.

Lawyer Eugene Sumampong said the owner of the warehouse is Julius Inocencio, who operates a car trading business. Inocencio does not trade endangered shells, he said.

“They have not secured the necessary search warrant,” Sumampong said.

The lawyer said they might question the legitimacy of the operation in court.

“There’s no need for a search warrant because these are endangered species,” Madrigal said, adding that they themselves saw the sacks of shells.

The shells were brought to the Cebu Provincial Motor Pool for inventory.

Madrigal said he will make a report on the operation and the seized items and submit it to the provincial legal officer.

He said they will ask for a warrant to search another warehouse near the area, which they believe contains more endangered shells.

Bfar 7 Director Andres Bojos said they will identify which shells are endangered.

If they find that the collector of the shells violated the law, Bojos said Capitol will see him in court.

Sperm whale

Meanwhile, a 2.6-meter pygmy sperm whale was found dead on the waters in Sitio Romahan, Barangay Dumlog in Talisay City Wednesday night.

Fisherman Aldrin Castillo found the dead whale while walking along the shore around 6 p.m.

Castillo reported it to the local Fisheries Sea Ecological Care (Fiseca) personnel, who immediately proceeded to the area.

Fe Gonzales, one of the Fiseca members who responded, said they found wounds on different parts of the whale’s body.

She said the wounds indicate that the whale may have been hit with a paddle.

Vincie Monterde, Talisay City public information officer, said different shapes were also seen on the whale’s skin, suggesting that children may have played with the mammal before it died.

He added that when Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) personnel examined the dead whale, they found its head swollen, suggesting that it was struck by a hard object, possibly a boat paddle.

Fish examiners said the whale died only recently as the decomposition was still at an early stage.

Monterde said a Fiseca team will bury the whale as recommended by Bfar.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 18, 2014.

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