BFAR Escoto’s dismissal should not stall vessel monitoring and Fisheries Code implementation – Oceana - Oceana Philippines
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BFAR Escoto’s dismissal should not stall vessel monitoring and Fisheries Code implementation – Oceana

Press Release Date: April 25, 2024

The dismissal of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Demosthenes Escoto may stall the full implementation of vessel monitoring measures (VMM), strict enforcement of the Philippine Fisheries Code, as amended by RA 10654, and the science-based and participatory fisheries management mechanism under the Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) system.

International ocean conservation organization Oceana raised this warning about the “chilling effect” of the former agency head’s controversial sacking on the bureaucracy, fishing sector and coastal communities.

“While we acknowledge the Ombudsman decision, we commend the efforts of Atty. Demosthenes Escoto to achieve 100 percent compliance of commercial fishing vessels on vessel monitoring system. To date, 81% of commercial fishing vessels have installed the tracking device, following the issuance of Fisheries Administrative Order 266 in October 2020 requiring vessel monitoring measures in all commercial fishing vessels,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President.

According to Ramos, the Fisheries National Administrative Register (FNAR) was made public through the Administrative Case System under Atty. Escoto’s leadership. FNAR contains all decisions, orders and resolutions of the Adjudication Committee in fisheries cases. “This contributes greatly to improved transparency in the fishing sector, but a lot more needs to be enhanced,” Ramos added.

The VMM, which identifies and traces the location, position, and activity of commercial fishing vessels, is a potent tool in preventing illegal unreported and unregulated fishing while promoting sustainable fishing practices. With the VMM in place, and data shared with the enforcement agencies including the local government units, it is possible to monitor fishing activities in real-time in our municipal waters enabling swift responses to any detected violations.

“It is a huge deterrence to illegal fishing happening in our overfished fishing grounds, which has caused fish population to dwindle. Municipal waters are reserved for our artisanal fisherfolk and their families yet they remain among the poorest of the vulnerable sectors,” said Ramos.

On June 23, 2023, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. directed the full implementation of the vessel monitoring requirement, a cornerstone for effective and sustainable fisheries management in the Philippines.

“We are now at a critical juncture where it becomes not just a mandate but a necessity to harness the power of technology to police our waters and apprehend violators without fear or favor to curb the collapse of our fisheries,” Ramos explained.

She emphasized, “Despite challenges, we remain steadfast on our commitment to protect, conserve and sustainably manage our fisheries and marine resources in collaboration with our partners from the government, artisanal fisherfolk, non-government organizations and the academe, through science-based and inclusive decision making in the implementation of the amended Fisheries Code and other laws and regulations.”

Estenzo-Ramos said that the dedicated leadership of Escoto led in galvanizing BFAR and the stakeholders in the full implementation of the National Sardine Management Plan (NSMP) 2020-2025. He issued a directive to all BFAR regional officials as chairperson of the respective FMA Management Body that science-based harvest control rules, measures and management plans should already be in place in all the 12 FMAs nationwide.

BFAR and Oceana on March 14 co-convened the 3rd Fisheries Management Areas Summit with Senator Cynthia Villar, as Keynote Speaker, participated by various stakeholders in the fishery sector. (END)

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 300 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit to learn more. 


For More Information: 

Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana  

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