Moalboal LGU reminds tourists not to touch marine life
Screenshot from viral video

Moalboal LGU reminds tourists not to touch marine life

THE local government unit of Moalboal is searching for the female tourist who was videotaped touching a protected sea turtle in Panagsama, Moalboal, Cebu on Saturday afternoon, March 9, 2024.

The video uploaded on Tiktok by a user named HomeWorkoutBasic has so far gained around three million views since it was uploaded on March 11.

“Shout out sa babaeng hindi makaintindi ng simple instructions. Ilang beses na nga sinabihan ng ‘bawal’ hawakan ang mga pawikan. Di lang niya hinawakan, tinulak pa. This happened March 9, 2024 around 4 p.m.,” said the uploader of the viral video.

(Shout out to the girl who can't understand simple instructions. Tourists were told several times not to touch the turtles. She didn't just touch the turtle, but pushed it. This happened March 9, 2024 around 4 p.m.)

Reminder to tourists

Following the incident, the Moalboal Municipal Government reminded tourists, especially those who availed themselves of the town's snorkeling activities, to stay off the marine life.

"The tourists are briefed on the proper conduct and they are told not to touch the marine life because we have a local ordinance that protects them. It is disappointing that despite the briefing and regular reminders, incidents like this happen," said Moalboal Mayor Inocentes Cabaron.

Cabaron was referring to the ordinance titled “Institutionalizing and regulating the conduct of snorkeling and island hopping activities within the Pescador Island, marine protected areas and other coastal areas within the municipal waters and the establishment of the environmental user’s fee system,” which was passed under the leadership of former mayor Paz “Lingling” Rozgoni on September 27, 2021.

Under Section 20 of the ordinance, touching any marine life is prohibited.

Cabaron said tourists who violate it will be fined P2,500.

He said the local government is working to identify and locate the individual shown in the viral video.

"We treasure and protect our marine life because as a tourist town, it is a major factor in our economy. We will not tolerate actions such as this and we will ensure that the individual will be fined to discourage similar reckless actions," said the mayor.

Sea turtles in Moalboal

Meanwhile, Mylene Panuncial-Sadagnot, 41, a marine biologist, said that “turtles like other wild animals are not domesticated pets that go about and seek our attention at times. When we enter the water, we are basically intruders in their realm and touching them might either cause them to retaliate or bite when they feel agitated by our presence or be more accustomed to us that they no longer see as a possible threat.”

Sadagnot said that based on her observation, the turtles find Moalboal as their feeding ground but not for breeding. The male turtles eventually migrate and depart for breeding season, leaving female turtles accustomed to the environment.

She said the turtles may cause bites or wounds that might be severe to human beings, and they might also be vulnerable to poaching since they are used to human interactions.

“They go closer towards humans or just don't move away when poachers approach… so having no flight response is not favorable for the turtles,” added Sadagnot.

She also reminded the public not to step on corals, saying it can crush the coral polyps (boulder kinds) and break the corals (branching types).

“To be mindful of the organisms that they see and give them the respect they deserve, as well as mindful of the waste they leave behind,” she said. (CDF/LMY)

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