Navy troops recovered a total of 123 sea turtles in Balabac, Palawan but failed to arrest the poachers who collected them.
Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay said members of the Naval Forces West found the sea turtles inside three submerged cages made of mangrove branches.
Tonsay said the turtles were recovered last Tuesday during an operation against poachers along the vicinity of Sitio Dunglog shore in Brgy. Caguisan.
“All six unidentified suspects, however, immediately fled the site utilizing two small boats going toward different directions when they saw the approaching elements of the Naval Forces West nearing their location,” he said.
The cages were hidden among the mangroves. The area had four huts believed to have been used by lookouts who warn poachers about the presence of authorities.
Six of the 123 sea turtles died by the time they were recovered by the Navy.
Tonsay said the poachers were believed to be collecting sea turtles to sell them to buyers believed to be funded by Chinese patrons.
Most of the recovered turtles weigh 50 to 60 kilograms. The 117 surviving turtles were turned over to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-Palawan before they were released at Roughton Island last Thursday.
The release point is about an hour’s boat ride from Balabac proper and was designated by the local government as a sanctuary for maritime species. The six dead turtles were buried at a beach close to the area.