Sea turtles are causing a stir in the South China Sea. On Wednesday, in response to reports of poaching in the area, officials from the Philippines arrested the crew of a Chinese fishing vessel, which was stocked with nearly 500 endangered sea turtles -- some of which had died. Despite calls from Beijing to release the prisoners, Filipino officials are taking the incident seriously -- and with good reason. Five of the world's seven species of sea turtles are native to the Philippines, and all of them are endangered; two of the species are even nearing extinction.
"Even if those turtles didn't come from the Philippines," Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the Philippines' Biodiversity Management Bureau, told the Wall Street Journal, "[the alleged poachers] could still be prosecuted here because sea turtles are globally protected animals." According to Lim, the Philippines encounters dreadful poaching of other endangered species year-round. That's why Filipino law is tough on wildlife offenders: poaching a sea turtle can result in up to 12 years in prison with fines over $20,000. Thankfully for the turtles, the country is willing to enforce its own rules.