FIVE nautical miles away from the shoreline of Casambalangan Cove in Santa Ana town in northern Cagayan, Felmar Manuel was fishing when his net was damaged by a green turtle he accidentally caught.
The green turtle, weighing almost 100 kilograms, measured 38 inches wide and 55 inches long. Manuel decided to go home without a catch and brought with him the turtle and kept it in his backyard. This happened three months ago.
When the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), having jurisdiction over Barangay Casambalangan which is part of the 54,118.95 hectares Cagayan Freeport, learned about the capture of the green turtle, it made an effort to get it from Manuel.
Upon receiving a report from a concerned citizen recently, CEZA immediately coordinated with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the retrieval of the green turtle which is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
CEZA Environment and Safety Chief Jose Ramboanga and DENR Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) local chief Aida Adap worked on the turnover of the protected marine turtle.
CEZA officials said their action was in light of Republic Act 914, known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, which makes it unlawful for any person to collect, hunt or possess wildlife, among others.
Julian Jovy Gonzales, Santa Ana-based CEZA officer in charge, said Manuel was however compensated.
”CEZA has granted Manuel’s request to cover the expenses of the repair of the damaged fishing net brought by the incidental capture of the said specie,” he said.
Gonzales said CEZA has been collaborating with the PAWB in its campaign toward the proper management and preservation of biological and physical diversities of the environment.
”With high regard to sustainable development, CEZA shall continue supporting PAWB’s indomitable undertakings such as that of the preservation of endangered Chelonia mydas,” he said.
Gonzales said the Cagayan Freeport development undertakings not only consider the economic and physical aspect but also take a high regard on long-term preservation of the environment.
”We are doing this such that future generations can also have the chance to experience the God-given beauty of these creations,” he added Joyce James, CEZA’s public relations chief, said the green turtle was immediately brought back to the sea healthy and alive with no signs of injury or inflicted wounds.
Also known as Chelonia mydas, green sea turtle is herbivorous and treated as endangered sea turtle specie; this is due to the reported declining populace of the female nesting specie.
Conservationists said that human threats to sea turtle species include poaching of adults and eggs, coastal habitat destruction, climate change, marine debris and accidental entanglement in fishing gears.
Green sea turtle, as its common name, was not derived from any particular external color of the specie but, rather, from the green color of its fat between its inner organ and shell.
Research also shows that this particular turtle caught is in its juvenile to adult stage when they usually stay in the open ocean to explore until they are ready to mate and reproduce.
CEZA is a government-owned and controlled corporation tasked to manage, supervise and develop the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZF) also referred to as the Cagayan Freeport.
Leander C. Domingo