A total of 13 sea turtles which were trapped in fish nets off the coastal waters of Barangay Mangingisda, Puerto Princesa City were released recently.
Present during the activity were personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and the City Government of Puerto Princesa through the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO).
Environmental Management Specialist II Myla Adriano of the City ENRO said that the sea turtles were identified as Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles. Of the 13 sea turtles released, four were adults, six were sub-adults, and three were juveniles.
She said that these sea turtles were trapped in a fish corral with an estimated size of about 120 square meters owned by a certain Edgar Fuentes in Purok Puting Buhangin, Barangay Mangingisda.
Fish corrals serve as guiding barriers which are set in different depths of sheltered waters to intercept fishes during their migration, impounding them into a collecting chamber where they are caught. Fish pens on the other hand are contraptions made of bamboo poles and fish nets known locally as “baklad.”
The Office of the City ENRO considers that both fish pens and fish corrals pose navigational hazards not only to small fishermen, but also to wildlife as obviously shown by what happened to the turtles that were trapped.
The City Government of Puerto Princesa through the City ENRO has prioritized biodiversity conservation initiatives in its regular programs and projects. One of which is the establishment of Bantay Pawikan in Barangay Simpocan, Bagong Bayan and Napsan.
Adriano, who heads the City ENRO’s Wildlife Management Division said that the personnel assigned as Bantay Pawikan maintains sea turtle’s Ex Situ hatcheries and monitors the nesting and hatching sites of sea turtles in the City’s west coast.
In an article published by the Sea Turtles, a United States-based non-profit organization that protects sea turtles through conservation travel and educational programs, healthy oceans need sea turtles being a keystone species. Keystone species like sea turtles are an important part of their environment and influence other species around them. This means, that if they are removed from a habitat, the natural order can be disrupted, affecting other wildlife in different ways. They also said that sea turtles grazing on seagrass is an important way to keep seagrass beds healthy, which helps store carbon and benefit many marine species.