Philippines: Chinese fishing vessel crashes into Tubbataha Reef. Large area of ancient coral damaged – 040513 1520z

(Photo: Coral

A Chinese fishing vessel has crashed into one of the Philippines’ most famous reefs and damaged thousands of square metres of centuries-old coral, the marine park has said.

(image: Tubbataha Reef

Some 3,902 square metres of coral was destroyed after the boat became stranded in the Tubbataha marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed Tubbataha Coral Reef, the park management said on Saturday.

“The damage the Chinese vessel caused to the reef is heart-breaking,” Angelique Songco, the head of the marine park said in a statement after experts assessed the affected area.

Some of the coral destroyed by the Chinese vessel was 500 years old, Songco said, adding that the damage was much larger than the area destroyed when a US Navy minesweeper, the USS Guardian, got stranded on Tubbataha in January.

The 48-metre vessel, carrying 12 suspected Chinese fishermen, plowed into the Tubbataha Reef near the western island of Palawan on April 8. Authorities later found hundreds of dead pangolins, an internationally-protected species, hidden inside the vessel. Tubbataha marine park information officer Glenda Simon told the AFP news agency that the 12 Chinese would likely be fined about $2.32m just for trespassing into the marine park and destroying the coral. The government has already charged them with poaching and they could face an additional 12 to 20 years in jail for possession of the pangolins in violation of wildlife law. Pangolins are widely hunted in parts of Asia for their meat, skin and scales and in China they are considered a delicacy and to have medicinal qualities. The Philippine office of the World Wide Fund for Nature condemned the poaching of the pangolins after the men were caught, saying that growing demand in China was wiping the animal out in Southeast Asia.

Chinese fishermen from the vessel that ran aground on Monday in Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sit with their belongings on a Philippine Coast Guard vessel as they arrive in Palawan Province, west of Manila April 10, 2013 in this picture provided by Tubbataha Management Office. REUTERS/ Tubbataha Management Office Handout

Saturday, 04 May, 2013 at 13:54 (01:54 PM) UTC RSOE

Other Reports

Chinese vessel did more damage to Tubbataha than USS Guardian TMO

The F/V Min Long Yu, a 48-meter Chinese fishing vessel, ran aground Tubbatahas North Atoll last 8 April. Though smaller than the 68-meter USS Guardian, the Chinese ship is steel-hulled, which is far more destructive to coral reefs. TMO, which is leveling a PHP58M (USD1.4M) fine against the US Navy for destroying 2345.67 square meters of coral reef, will now file charges against the Chinese poachers. (TMO Archives)

“Despite being smaller than the USS Guardian, the Chinese fishing vessel that ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last April 8 caused worse damage to the heritage site than the US minesweeper, the reef’s caretaker said Friday.
The Tubbataha Management Office said this was the finding of a team of scientists that analyzed the damage caused by the F/V Min Long Yu.
According to the team, the Chinese vessel destroyed 3,902 square meters of corals including some massive corals 500 years old. This is 66 percent larger than the 2,345.67 square meters damaged by the USS Guardian when it ran aground last Jan. 17.
“The damage the Chinese vessel caused to the reef is heart-breaking. Some of the massive corals that were pulverized are estimated to be about 500 years old,” Tubbataha Protected Area superintendent Angelique Songco said.
The USS Guardian measured 224 feet by 39 feet (, while the Chinese fishing vessel measured 48 meters long and eight meters wide.
Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan of De La Salle University (DLSU) led the team that conducted the assessment from April 23 to 30.
Joining him were marine biologists Miledel Christine Quibilan, Eznairah Jeung Narida and Renmar Martinez from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute and Norievel Espaa of DLSU.
Also with the team were the Automated Rapid Reef Assessment System team (Philippine Department of Science and Technology) team, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines, Tubbataha Management Office and marine park rangers.
Extent of damage
The TMO said the damage extended from the original location of the F/V Min Long Yu when it ran aground on April 8, since big waves caused the vessel to move from its original position before it was pulled off the reef last April 19.
“It bulldozed through vibrant coral reefs leaving a highway of destruction in its wake,” the TMO said.
The team measured the grounding site using two methods aerial photography and boundary mapping using Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS).
For aerial photography, the team used a GoPro camera attached to a kite. Images taken over the area were georectified to determine the size of the damaged area.

(Photo: Tubbataha marine park

In DGPS, marine ecologist divers and a snorkeler were deployed and placed tags to establish the perimeter of the damaged area.
“Research stations have also been set up in the area to monitor coral and fish recruitment rates. The next monitoring activity will be in October 2013,” the TMO said.
The TMO said it has sent an official communication to the Chinese Embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs seeking assistance in identifying the person or company liable.
“So far, they have received no response,” it said.
Meanwhile, the 12 Chinese aboard the vessel had been charged for poaching and possession of protected species, as well as for attempting to bribe park rangers.
They will also face administrative cases before the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB).” TJD, GMA News

Pangolins (Scaly Anteaters) Seized from Chinese Vessel – WWF

The F/N Min Long Yu was carrying about 2000 dressed and rolled-up pangolins. Rising demand in China for pangolin meat and scales is wiping out the unique, toothless anteaters from their habitats in Southeast Asia. (TMO Archives)
About 400 boxes containing illegally-traded pangolins or scaly anteaters were seized from the F/V Min Long Yu, the same 48-meter Chinese fishing vessel which ran aground the Tubbataha Reefs last 8 April 2013.

Each box was estimated to contain from five to six dressed and rolled-up pangolins, which means the vessel could be carrying as many as 2000 of the toothless, insect-eating creatures.

Resembling large olive lizards, pangolins are actually scaled mammals which range throughout Asia and Africa. Eight species exist all threatened by habitat loss plus the illegal trade for their meat and unique scales, which are used for both traditional medicine and the curio trade.

The grisly discovery was made by the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park Rangers and the Philippine Coast Guard last 13 April 2013. The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) is set to lodge legal action against the 12 Chinese fishermen, who are already facing poaching charges in violation of Republic Act No. 10067 for their illegal entry into the Tubbataha Reefs.

The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines) strongly condemns this latest act of wildlife trafficking.

It is bad enough that these Chinese have illegally entered our seas, navigated without boat papers and crashed recklessly into a national marine park and World Heritage Site, says WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan.

However, it is simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife. Should the carcasses check out as Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), we can be sure they were being smuggled out of Palawan. In which case, the full force of the Philippine Wildlife Act should be applied.

As the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora bad (CITES) prohibits trade in Asian pangolin species, WWF-Philippines calls on the government to fully prosecute the Chinese poachers for violating both national and international wildlife trade laws.

The Illegal Wildlife Trade

The latest seizure of pangolins from the F/N Min Long Yu comes right as the WWF global network is scaling up its campaign to combat the illegal wildlife trade, which now comprises the fourth largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting of products and currency, and human trafficking.

The illegal wildlife trade, estimated to yield at least $19 Billion per year, has become a lucrative business for criminal syndicates because the risk involved is low compared with other crimes. Poaching syndicates flourish because there are presently no effective deterrents to the trade. High-level traders and kingpins are rarely arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for their crimes.

Today, pangolins are widely hunted and traded for their alleged medicinal properties. They are among the most commonly encountered mammals in Asias wildlife trade and alarming numbers have been seized throughout East and Southeast Asia in recent years.

WWF-Philippines encourages the public not to patronize products that may have come from species that are illegally traded. ” –

Concludes Tan, When the buying stops, the killing will, too.


Tubbataha Reef

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park – UNESCO


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