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Personnel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Bicol (BFAR-5) have seized at least 16,000 pieces of mangrove crablets locally known as “langaw-langaw” or “koto-koto” in an operation in Barangay Tabugon, Santa Elena town in Camarines Norte province.

In an interview on Tuesday, Nonie Enolva, BFAR-5 spokesperson, said the confiscated crablets worth PHP80,000 were being transported via a public utility bus from Daet town to Metro Manila last Sunday.

“This specific apprehension and confiscation resulted from an intelligence report provided to our enforcers. The crablets were undocumented and abandoned by the shipper. While there was a commotion during the inventory and confiscation of the crablets, I think the suspect slowly ran away since during the accounting, it was found out that a passenger was already missing. The public utility bus has no manifesto to confirm the names of the passengers. It was from Daet but the passenger was from Vinzons,” Enolva said.

She said catching and transporting mangrove crablets are prohibited due to the studies showing a high mortality rate of the species during these processes.

“Anyone who will be caught catching and transporting fly-size mangrove crabs will face a case in violation of Fisheries Administrative Order 264 (Regulation on the Catching, Possession, Transporting, Selling, Trading and Exporting of Mangrove Crablets, Juvenile Mangrove Crabs and Gravid Mangrove Crabs (Scylla spp.) in relation to Section 128 (Other Violations) of the RA (Republic Act) 10654 (amended Fisheries Law). Also, the push net or scissor net is used as the primary collection method. These collection methods catch juveniles of other species and contribute to further environmental damage. Relentless collection of these juveniles over the years led to stock depletion and growth overfishing,” Enolva added.

In a statement, BFAR-5 regional director Ariel U. Pioquinto reiterated that it is unlawful for any person, association, cooperative, partnership, or corporation to catch, possess, transport, trade, and sell mangrove crablets and mangrove juvenile, and mangrove crablets less than 12 centimeters from the wild.

“We surmised that the shipper is fully aware of the consequences of the violation because the administrative fine alone ranges from PHP100,000 to PHP5 million depending on the socioeconomic impact and seriousness of the violation, volume and value of the fisheries product, damage to the environment due to the violation, and habitually of the offender, in accordance with Section 128 of the amended Fisheries Law,” he said.

Some of the confiscated juvenile crabs were stocked in an aquasilviculture project of BFAR while the rest were released back into the wild. (PNA)