Philippines police seize Chinese turtle fishing boat near disputed territory

By James Griffiths, May 7, 2014

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Philippines police seized a Chinese fishing boat in the disputed South China Sea Wednesday, Reuters reports

Chief Superintendent Niel Vargas of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group said a maritime police patrol apprehended a Chinese fishing boat around 7 a.m. on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal.

The boat has 11 crew and police found about 500 turtles in the vessel, some of which were already dead, he said, adding that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to have 40 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are protected under Philippine law.

Maritime police are now towing the boats to Puerto Princesa town on the island of Palawan where appropriate charges will be filed against them, Vargas said.

The incident is bound to raise the ire of Beijing, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

In an official report, Chinese state media described the taking of the boat very differently: "Several armed men forced themselves onto the boat and fired four or five shots in the air. They then took control of the boat," Xinhua said.

Several armed men forced themselves onto the boat and fired four or five shots in the air. They then took control of the boat, according to the association.

Another nearby fishing boat, Qiongqionghai 03168, rushed away after seeing the armed boat. It encountered another armed boat later but successfully escaped, according to the association.

The Qionghai municipal government has mobilized two nearby fishing boats to search for the missing fishermen but failed to find the boat as of Wednesday morning.

The Half Moon Shoal is a major fishing base for Chinese fishermen.

[Image via Flickr]

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