AN URGENT CALL TO PRESIDENT MARCOS FOR TRANSPARENCY AND FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF VESSEL MONITORING MEASURES FOR ALL COMMERCIAL FISHING VESSELS!
A MANIFESTO OF GRAVE CONCERN
Press Release Date: April 5, 2023
We, a broad coalition of civil society organizations and fisherfolks groups, express our gravest concern over the presidential suspension of the implementation of the much-welcomed FAO 266, requiring vessel monitoring measures (VMM) to all commercial fishing vessels (CFVs). The deadline for full compliance under FAO 266 lapsed in October 2021, which as of February 2023, only 58% percent of CFVs have conformed to. 42% are operating illegally without the required tracking device, in clear defiance of the Fisheries Code as amended by RA 10654 and FAO 266.
The science is clear that overfishing, pervasive illegal fishing practices and destruction of habitats are among the causes for the alarming depletion of our fish population and marine resources. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing amounted to 27 to 40 per cent of fish caught in 2019 in the Philippines or approximately P 62 billion annually.1 Commercial fishers also do not report up to 422,000 metric tons of their catch each year. These have resounding destructive impacts on Philippines fisheries and marine ecosystems, food, nutritional and national security as well as the lives of coastal communities and artisanal fisherfolk dependent solely on a healthy ocean for sustenance.
Our coastal cities and municipalities which are tasked to protect the municipal waters which are reserved for our artisanal fisherfolk are hard-pressed to exercise their mandates in our archipelagic waters without the vessel monitoring technology. VMM is a critical tool for monitoring and regulating commercial fishing activities if we are to sustainably manage our dwindling marine resources.
Advancing VMM as a policy measure is aligned with the key reforms integrated in the Philippine Fisheries Code as amended by the Philippine government in response to the yellow card warning by the European Union for to stop, prevent and fight IUU fishing.
The suspension of FAO 266 is a huge stumbling block in the collective efforts to protect our valuable marine and aquatic resources and the well-being of our people, who are already extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate and biodiversity crisis we face.
Effective measures to address IUU fishing cannot be overemphasized. The recent action of the Philippine government in suspending VMM implementation is regressive, rewards the defiant recipients of the privilege to fish in our waters and contradicts the Constitutional mandate to protect the nation’s marine wealth, the Philippine Fisheries Code, as amended, and our international obligations.
We firmly believe in the Global Fishing Watch declaration that “When ocean and vessel data are shared openly, we can accelerate science, build accountability and help drive fairer, smarter policies that protect fisheries and those whose livelihoods depend on them.”
We call on President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to immediately lift the suspension of FAO 266 and direct its full implementation to ensure that effective measures for transparency, traceability and accountability in fisheries management are in place.