Enhanced vessel monitoring and partnership of maritime law enforcers, fisherfolk urged vs. commercial fishing in municipal waters
Press Release Date: November 11, 2021
The weak implementation of vessel monitoring measures and the lack of sufficient assets for monitoring, control, and surveillance activities make patrolling the seas a tough and challenging job for enforcers tasked to stop commercial fishing vessels inside municipal waters along with other illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) fishing activities in the ocean.
International non-government organization, Oceana said the protection of municipal water that is crucial to the recovery of our ocean from decades of overfishing, illegal fishing and declining fish catch has been the biggest challenge in law enforcement.
The Fisheries Code as amended by RA 10654 designates the 15-kilometers from the shoreline as municipal waters – reserved for the preferential use and access of municipal and artisanal fisherfolk pursuant to the social justice provision declared by the Constitution.
Meanwhile, it has been a year since the issuance of Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 266 which requires all Philippine-flagged commercial fishing vessels to install Vessel Monitoring Measures (VMM) and Electronic Reporting System (ERS). This is meant to strengthen the monitoring, control, and surveillance system for the sustainable management of fisheries.
“A year after its issuance, we have yet to see FAO 266’s intended positive impact on our fisheries. We urge the government to focus on ensuring full compliance by the commercial fishing industry. We need to step up the efforts to help our law enforcers, including local coastal authorities, and small-scale fisherfolk who have taken it upon themselves to rid our municipal waters of illegal commercial fishing,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President of Oceana.
In a forum organized by Oceana and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the online platform Karagatan Patrol was hailed as a valuable instrument in reporting apparent illegal fishing activities by Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Peace and Order Bernardo Florece, Jr., who called the platform update “a giant leap in locally monitoring the situations, allowing the LGUs to be vigilant and proactive in preventing and solving the problem.”
“The DILG and Oceana have been partners in helping LGUs manage the current illegal fishing and encroachment of commercial fishers. Most cases, illegal practices disrupt the livelihood and fish catch of small-scale fishers who should have preferential rights in the use of municipal waters,” said Florece. “This year, DILG levels up the partnership with Oceana in the adoption of VIIRS, an instrument that collects visible and infrared imagery and observations of land, atmosphere and oceans, or the use of super lights. Using this system, we can immediately detect encroachment of commercial vessels in municipal waters.”
Some law enforcers also cited Karagatan Patrol and its social media community as a boost in their monitoring capabilities and an opportunity to work with small-scale fisherfolk in protecting the country’s municipal waters.
“Simula nung nagshare ako ng mga accomplishment namin at mga nahuli namin, may mga nagme-message na rin sa amin na taga-dito sa Tolosa. Karamihan sa kanila mga mangingisda, nagme-message sila in real time na may nakikita silang gumagawa ng iligal, mga walang permit – real time tinatawagan nila kami,” said Police Corporal Gerald Garganera who is assigned to Tolosa town in the province of Leyte.
(Since we started sharing our accomplishments and apprehensions on Karagatan Patrol’s Facebook group last year, we have been receiving messages from other members based in Tolosa. Most of them are fisherfolk who call and send us reports in real time when they spot illegal activities at sea.)
“Malaking tulong ang mga pagshare ng mga accomplishments namin kasi nakukuha namin ang trust ng mga fisherfolk na tumulong sa amin sa pagsugpo sa mga illegal fishing activities at sa pagprotekta na rin sa mga marine protected areas namin sa Tolosa,” he added.
(Sharing our accomplishments on Karagatan Patrol was beneficial for our team since we gained the trust of fisherfolk who are helping in the efforts to stop illegal fishing activities and in protecting our marine protected areas here in Tolosa.)
The 3,900-strong online community of Karagatan Patrol Facebook group was created by Oceana and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in 2019 as a platform for law enforcers and concerned citizens to report illegal fishing activities in municipal waters.
Through this online community, artisanal fisherfolk can reach out and help law enforcers who continue to face difficulties in monitoring fishing vessel activities at sea, according to fisherfolk leader Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, a recipient of the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award.
“Maraming magagandang batas ang ating bansa para sa mga pangisdaan, pero kailangang ma-implement ang mga ito nang maigi. Kawawa ang mga maliliit na mangingisda tulad namin kung hindi maipatupad ang mga batas na ito. Kada taon, mas humihirap ang paghuli ng isda sa karagatan, lalo na at dumarami na ang mga kakompetensya namin na lulan ng malalaking bangka. Ang hiling namin sa pamahalaan: pansinin ninyo naman kami. Bigyan naman sana ng sapat na kagamitan ang mga Bantay Dagat para kaming mga maliliit na mangingisda ay maprotektahan,” Ballon said.
(The Philippines is equipped with the necessary fisheries laws, but it is important to ensure that these are being implemented. Fisherfolk like us are at the losing end if these laws are not carried out. Catching enough fish gets harder every year, especially because of the increasing number of large fishing vessels we compete with. We ask our government to take urgent notice of our plight. Provide sufficient tools for the Bantay Dagat so that small fisherfolk like us will be given ample protection.)
Newly promoted Colonel Fernando Cunanan, Jr., the chief of the maritime unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region 12, admitted that there is limited capacity of maritime security enforcers during Oceana’s recent virtual event relaunching Karagatan Patrol.
“Alam po natin sa gobyerno, napakakonti ng resources natin in terms of fuel, lalo na po sa ating mga bangka, hindi mo mapatrolan ang buong karagatan na malawak. Ang radar natin limited din o ang range niya pero with the tool na dinevelop, ang Karagatan Patrol ng partner nating Oceana, hindi na kailangang halughugin ang karagatan. Directly alam ko kung nasaan ‘yung mga bangka na huhulihin,” he said.
(We know our government does not have enough resources for fuel, especially for our floating assets so we cannot monitor and do surveillance work in our entire maritime territory which is so vast. With the tool developed by Karagatan Patrol and our partner Oceana, we don’t need to scour every area of our seas. We can go directly to the location of the violators because of Karagatan Patrol.)
The updated version of Karagatan Patrol has additional features that generate detailed analytics that can help enforcers and users spot trends in the movements of commercial fishing vessels at sea. The platform uses Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) to detect strong lure lights likely used by commercial fishing vessels.
Karagatan Patrol now has specific maps for Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs), municipal waters, protected seascapes, law enforcement location, and closed season areas. It has further been updated with tools for layers, zoom, distance measurement, area calculation, and erasing of temporary layer. Furthermore, its data analytics presently covers the FMAs including the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), extended continental shelf, Kalayaan Island Group, territorial/internal waters, municipal waters, and regions and provinces.
Oceana has earlier reported that apparent commercial fishing has been unabated even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as data from Karagatan Patrol showed only a 4.7% decrease from 44,952 in 2019 to 42,934 in 2020.
Palawan topped the list of provinces with 6,964 of the 44,952 in 2019 and with 6,202 detected out of the total of 42,934 in 2020. Masbate follows with 5,614 in 2019 and 5,721 in 2020. For both 2019 and 2020, Zamboanga City has been consistently on top of the cities and municipalities with the highest number of night light detections inside the municipal waters, followed by Tongkil in Sulu, Milagros and San Pascual in Masbate, and then Hadji Muhammad Ajul, completing the top five local governments.
Earlier this year, the DILG wrote to the top 20 hotspot municipalities and cities with the highest number of apparent intrusions of commercial fishing vessels inside municipal waters, requiring an explanation in their efforts to address illegal fishing. The list of hotspot municipalities and cities were based on the maps and VIIRS data shared by Oceana.
Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.
For More Information:
Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana
Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: email@example.com