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BFAR - Shell Horizons

BFAR - Shell Horizons

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Published by Anna Oposa

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Published by: Anna Oposa on May 25, 2011
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05/26/2011

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 April 11, 2011Hon. Benjamin F.S. Tabios Jr. Assistant DirectorBureau of Fisheries and Aquatic ResourcesDepartment of Agriculture
Re: Collection and exportation of corals, seashells, and other marine species from thePhilippines
Dear Hon. Tabios: The company Shell Horizons appears to be collecting, exporting, and selling seashells, corals, giantclams, and other marine species from the Philippines and the Bahamas. Its website claims that it is America’s “Largest Wholesaler of Seashells and Seashell Products, Finest Quality Seashells andSouvenirs Since – 1976.” This business violates a number of local and international laws. Under Section 91 of the
FisheriesCode (RA 8550)
, there is a ban on “coral exploitation and exportation.”It shall be unlawful for any person or corporation to gather, possess, sell or export ordinary,precious and semi-precious corals, whether raw or in processed form, except for
scientific or research purposes 
. (emphasis added)Under Section 5 of the
Presidential Decree No. 1219
,
The gathering, harvesting, collecting, transporting, possession, sale and/or exporting of ordinary corals either in raw or processed form in any quantity, is prohibited.
The use of corals as materials in buildingsand other man-made structures, such as but not limited to piers, dams and dikes, is likewiseprohibited. The Minister of Natural Resources may issue a special permit to only one
 
person/corporation for a limited issue to conduct
experimental collection of precious and semi-  precious corals 
. (emphasis added)Based on its website, Shell Horizons is using our species for commercial purposes. It even showspictures of seashells being used to create a Christmas tree for the White House.In the United States of America, the
Lacey Act
prohibits “trade in wildlife, fish, and plants thathave been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.” This has been violated before. In 1999,Mr. Petros Leventis was sentenced in a landmark coral smuggling case. His Florida-based company,Greek Island Imports, smuggled protected corals and seashells from the Philippines to the US. Tenyears later, in 2009, Gunther Wenzek, a German national, was arrested in the US for the same case.His company in Essen, Germany named CoraPet sold various coral products to retailers in theUnited States. This business also directly violates the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)and the
International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN).For instance, its online catalog boasts of giant clams for sale. The
Tridacna Squamosa 
is protected by CITES in the Philippines, while the
Tridacna Gigas 
is listed as vulnerable by IUCN.Shell Horizons claims it is a company based in Clearwater, Florida, buta check with the website of Florida’s Department of State Division of Corporations online facility revealed that no online record for any “Shell Horizon Inc.” The ocean bill of lading sample found onlineshows a 5808 KG shipment dated 21 September 2008. The shipper isOrcullo Enterprises, which is based in Burgos St., Mandaue City,Cebu, Philippines. Another ocean bill of lading sample dated 28September 2009 shows another shipment weighing 6156 KG.
 
 To do this legally, Shell Horizons would need several permits from the local government units, andnational government agencies. Under Section 4 of the
 Wildlife Act (RA 9147)
, our marineresources are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture: The Department of Agriculture (DA) shall have jurisdiction over all declared aquatic criticalhabitats, all aquatic resources including but not limited to all fishes, aquatic plants,invertebrates and all marine mammals, except dugong.Under Section 7 of this Act, the collection of wildlife must be done with:appropriate and acceptable wildlife collection techniques with least or no detrimental effectsto the existing wildlife populations and their habitats shall, likewise, be required: Provided,further, That collection of wildlife by indigenous people may be allowed for traditional useand
not primarily for trade 
: Provided, furthermore, That collection and utilization for saidpurpose
shall not cover threatened species 
. (emphasis added)Under Section 11:[W]ildlife species may be exported to or imported from another country as may be
authorized by the Secretary 
or the designated representative, subject to strict compliance with theprovisions of this Act and rules and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto: Provided, That the recipient of the wildlife is technically and financially capable to maintain it.In Section 19:the implementation of International agreement on international trade in endangered speciesof wild fauna and flora, the management authorities for terrestrial and aquatic resources shallbe the
Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the DENR and the Bureau of Fisheries and  Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the DA
, respectively and that in the Province of Palawan theimplementation hereof is vested to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Developmentpursuant to Republic Act No. 7611. (emphasis added)In this regard, may I respectfully request your good Offices for information on the permits given toShell Horizons Inc., if any? In addition to permits from the DA, DENR, BFAR, and PAWB, ShellHorizons would also need CITES export permits from the Philippines and the US. The US Fish and Wildlife Service should be alerted in order to inspect the shipment and the permits, and if all is notin order, confiscate the shipment. This is a very alarming issue because the Philippines is part of the “center of the world marinediversity” by Dr. Kent Carpenter of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and Dr.Charlie Veron, author of Corals of the World. Our coral reefs are the habitat, breeding, nursery andfeeding grounds of fish and other marine organisms. They buffer wave action and protectcoastlines. The beauty of our reefs draws local and international divers, snorkelers, and tourists. They also serve as a rich source of medicinal products. Moreover, a considerable number of peopledepend on fishing for livelihood. It has been estimated that healthy coral reefs in the Philippines cansupply as much as 35 tons/km/year of edible and economically valuable fish and invertebrates(assuming, of course, that ecologically sound fishing methods are used).

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