ZAMBOANGA CITY – Police seized hundreds of helmet shells from a trader who allegedly tried to smuggle it out of Sulu, officials said Sunday.
Officials said police swooped on a pier in Jolo and confiscated the shells, which were hidden in 107 boxes of cigarettes. The trader, Peralta Pula, 60, was arrested for violating the Philippines Fisheries Code.
Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, the provincial police chief, said civilians tipped off authorities about the shells.
“After receiving the information from concerned citizens that endangered species of helmet shells are being packed and scheduled to be shipped out to Cebu City and Manila, immediately combined teams of police and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources raided the pier that resulted to the apprehension of Peralta Pula,” Orbita said.
He said at least a dozen pieces helmet shells were contained in each boxes.
Last year, authorities also seized thousands of various sea shells, including helmet shells, and turtle scales in two ferries in Zamboanga City during an inspection. The ferries, Magnolia Liliflora and Kristel Jane, came from Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.
Sea shells are commonly used as fashion accessories and for home decorations among others, but gathering and selling of these are prohibited under Philippine laws.
There are dozens of types of sea shells in the country which are considered rare, threatened and endangered and the penalty for violating the laws is imprisonment from 12 years to 25 years and a fine of up to P120,000.