A Philippine court on Monday fined nine Chinese fishermen $102,000 each after they were caught with hundreds of sea turtles in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea amid a festering territorial standoff between the two sides.
China unilaterally claims almost all of the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich with minerals and oil-and-gas deposits, based on controversial historical arguments. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.
Philippine police arrested the fishermen and seized their boat off Half Moon Shoal, a disputed territory within the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone, in May. Two of the fishermen were sent home because they were minors.
After three months of trial, Judge Ambrosio de Luna found the fishermen guilty of poaching in Philippine waters and of illegal possession of endangered green sea turtles.
It was not immediately clear how the fishermen would find the funds to pay the fines, but they face six months in jail if they fail to pay up, time already served, suggesting they could even be released.