Twelve Vietnamese fishermen were sentenced by a Philippine court on Wednesday to six months in jail for illegal shark fishing. They were likewise slapped with a fine of $100,000 in total.
Prosecutor Alen Rodriguez said that the fishermen, who were arrested on March 21 off the western island of Palawan, pleaded guilty last week. They had been caught in the possession of a boatload of illegally fished sharks.
Rodriguez added that if the fisherman are unable to pay the fine, which works out to over $8,000 each, then more jail time could be added to their sentence.
Although Rodriguez also pointed out that there have been similar cases in the past in which foreign fishermen caught illegally fishing in Philippine waters were allowed to go free after serving their sentences sans paying the fine.
“We will see if they can pay. If they cannot, then let us see what is done by the court,” he said.
Since the fishermen have been in jail for three months now, it is a possibility that they will already be released come September, Hazel Mae Alaska, a clerk of court, said.
Recent years have seen a rise in cases of illegal fishing by Vietnamese fishermen in Philippine waters, mostly off Palawan, the Filipino island closest to Vietnam.