Philippine authorities on Monday filed charges against nine of the 11 Chinese fishermen apprehended last week for allegedly poaching hundreds of endangered sea turtles in a shoal near the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez told The Wall Street Journal the Chinese fishermen face up to 20 years in prison for gathering 'critically endangered' species, such as the Hawksbill turtle.
Two Chinese suspects were released because they are minors, he said. In addition, five Filipino fishermen accused of loading the marine turtles onto the Chinese vessel were charged with the illegal gathering and trafficking of endangered species.
'I will ask the judge to commit [the Chinese fishermen] to the provincial jail,' said Mr. Rodriguez. The Philippines's provincial jail is for punishment of more serious crimes than city jails or police-holding cells.
It isn't clear, however, how long the Chinese fishermen will stay in jail amid pressure from China. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has demanded the fishermen's immediate release, claiming they were in Chinese territory when the Filipino maritime police arrested them early last week.
The apprehension of the Chinese fisherman coincided with a row last week between China and Vietnam, when a Chinese state-run energy company deployed an oil rig in disputed waters.
Philippines authorities said they found 489 sea turtles--108 of them alive and 381 dead--on the two boats. The authorities inventoried the turtles Saturday after the two fishing vessels arrived in Puerto Princesa, having been towed by maritime police for days, Mr. Rodriguez said.
The live turtles were immediately released to sea after they were photographed for prosecution of the Chinese and Filipino fishermen.
Seventeen of the live turtles were Hawksbill while 91 were Green Sea turtles. The Hawksbill is a critically endangered species of marine turtle, the poaching of which would trigger, upon a conviction, 12 to 20 years of imprisonment or a fine of $2,290 per act. Philippine environmental laws allow bail for suspects accused of poaching if they are foreigners.
The Philippines is a hotbed for poaching. Five of the seven species of sea turtles around the world can be found in the Philippines because of the plentiful sea-grass beds.
Aside from the Hawskbill and Green Sea turtles, other species found in the country include the Olive Ridley, the Loggerhead and the Leatherback, the other marine-turtle species most threatened by extinction.
Sea turtles are valued for their eggs and meat--used in Chinese and other East Asian cuisine--and in Chinese medicine. Japan is a major buyer of sea turtle shells, known as Bekko, which are used for ornaments and jewelry.
相关报道检察官罗德里格斯(Allen Ross Rodriguez)对《华尔街日报》说，这些中国渔民因收集严重濒危的物种（比如玳瑁）而面临最高20年有期徒刑。
除了玳瑁龟和绿海龟，其它三种在菲律宾发现的海龟为太平洋丽龟(Olive Ridley)、 龟(Loggerhead)和革龟(Leatherback)。革龟是另外一种灭绝风险最大的海龟种类。