By Tracy Cabrera
LUCENA CITY — While promoting Sariaya as ‘home of sea turtles’, authorities here are set to release this month and until January next year more than 1,000 baby sea turtles, locally known as pawikan, to their natural habitat in Tayabas Bay fronting the coastal towns of Quezon province as part of government’s efforts to further propagate turtle populations across the archipelago.
According to fishery technician at the municipal government’s agriculture officer Sherwin Rosales, the hatchlings of different species were taken care of by fishermen, fish warden and the local government in four nesting sites in the villages of Castañas, San Roque, Guisguis and Bignay 2.
Rosales added that the turtles will be returned in batches to Tayabas Bay, which stretches from San Juan town in Batangas province to the towns of Sariaya, Pagbilao, Padre Burgos, Agdangan, Unisan, Pitogo, Macalelon, General Luna, Catanauan, Mulanay and San Francisco and Lucena City in Quezon.
The coastal villages are known nesting sites of the green sea, olive Ridley and hawksbill turtle species, which are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The turtles return to the beach from October to December and stay for 58 days throughout the nesting period.
Rosales said spectators would be welcomed every time turtles were freed to the sea, but they must strictly observe health protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Most residents along the coast of Tayabas Bay in Quezon used to keep sea turtles as pets but Tanggol Kalikasan, a Lucena-based public interest law office that advocates environmental protection, has been conducting a campaign to educate the public on existing laws on environmental and wildlife protection.
Under Republic Act No. 9147, or the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, the hunting, selling and killing, as well as collecting of eggs, of endangered species are strictly prohibited and violations of its provision carry stiff penalties that include imprisonment and fines. (AI/MTVN)