Endangered Marine Turtles on the Menu: Philippine Authorities Promise to Take Action

Philippine authorities have vowed to form a “special task force” which will crack down on restaurants illegally serving protected marine turtles, known as pawikan.

According to the Straits Times, the announcement is in response to recent media coverage of roadside restaurants in Cebu offering up the popular dish of stewed pawikan.

Despite being located just 300 meters from a police station, one “makeshift eatery” prepares 80 kilos (176 pounds) of marine turtle stew daily.

The Pasil eatery cooks an average of 80 kilos of pawikan meat every day. The dish is cooked in two batches—the first at 9 a.m., in time for customers who start coming at 10. The second batch is prepared at 1 p.m. because by then the 40 kilos of meat cooked in the morning would usually have been consumed.

A mature marine turtle can weigh around 200 kilos.

GMA News spoke with a neighborhood resident who claimed that even policemen are among the diners.

The popularity of sea turtle stew is attributed to the belief that it is an aphrodisiac and “demand for pawikan meat has kept the trade going” — although some patrons are said to partake just for the “thrill and curiosity of eating an endangered species”.

The Philippines is a CITES signatory, and under the country’s Wildlife Conservation Act, or Republic Act No. 9147, violators can be imprisoned for up to one year and fined P100,000 (US $2,300).


Image © iStockphoto.com

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.