Oceana shines light on illegal commercial fishing in Philippine municipal waters at 7th Our Oceans Conference - Oceana Philippines
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Oceana shines light on illegal commercial fishing in Philippine municipal waters at 7th Our Oceans Conference

Press Release Date: April 13, 2022

Philippine municipal waters continue to be at risk from illegal commercial fishing without the full implementation of vessel monitoring, according to data bared by boat detection platform Karagatan Patrol at the 7th Our Oceans Conference.

“The Karagatan Patrol is a prime example of how a global satellite technology can be used to detect fishing vessels, in combination with information sharing and effective enforcement measures, to create impact at the regional level,” said Tony Long, chief executive officer of Global Fishing Watch.

Established in the Philippines in 2019 by Oceana, an international advocacy group for ocean conservation and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, Karagatan Patrol has been monitoring commercial fishers’ apparent encroachment of the 15-kilometer municipal waters which by law are reserved for the preferential use of subsistence fisherfolk. Using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), the platform shares maps showing detection of strong lights used by fishing boats at night to lure fish.

“Illegal commercial fishing robs local communities of vital food and income, and damages coral reefs and other biodiversity hot spots,” said Antha Williams, who leads Bloomberg Philanthropies’ environment program. “We are excited to be partnering with Oceana to support this innovative data-driven technology that bolsters communities’ capacity to protect their resources and livelihoods.”

During the conference, Karagatan Patrol highlighted its fishing boat detection data in the Philippines’ municipal waters which indicated apparent intrusions of commercial fishing vessels despite the closed fishing season for sardines in the Visayan Sea from November 15 last year until February 15, 2022. This is evident in the 33 detections for Carles, Iloilo during the closed fishing season. Furthermore, there were 46 apparent intrusions recorded by the platform in Coron, Palawan during the closed fishing season for Northern Palawan from November 1 to January 31. There were also 97 detections in Tongkil, Sulu, 52 in Hadji Muhtamad, and 23 in Zamboanga City and 14 in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte despite the closed fishing season in force for Zamboanga Peninsula from December 1 to March 1.

Every year, a fishing ban for sardines is imposed in the Visayan Sea, Northern Palawan, and Zamboanga Peninsula during sardine spawning season and is in accordance with the harvest control measures integrated in the National Sardines Management Plan (NSMP). The full implementation of vessel monitoring is also incorporated in the Plan.

“The data from Karagatan Patrol is merely the tip of the iceberg, given that the platform can only detect apparent intrusions at night using VIIRS technology. The key to protecting the country’s municipal waters and the rights and livelihood of our subsistence fisherfolk is in the successful and full implementation of vessel monitoring,” urged Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President.

Karagatan Patrol’s 2021 boat detection data in municipal waters   showed that apparent illegal commercial fishing persisted even during the pandemic. Most of these activities were recorded in Zamboanga City (1,937) and the municipalities of Languyan (1,260), San Pascual (1,192), Tongkil (1,112), Cuyo (883), and Pangutaran (808). Meanwhile, the provinces that topped the list for the same year were Quezon (5,120), Palawan (4,244), Masbate (3,709), Sulu (2,707), and Tawi-Tawi (2,056).

According to the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), it has reached 50% of implementation for qualified commercial fishing vessels for vessel monitoring installations as of January this year. This is in accordance with RA 10654 or the Amended Fisheries Code and the Fisheries Administrative Order 266 signed by Agriculture Secretary William Dar in October of 2020 which mandates the installation of vessel monitoring measures (VMM).

But commercial fishers are openly flouting this order and have publicly announced their defiance of the law, spurred by the legal opinion issued by the Office of the Solicitor General. The Southern Philippines Deep Sea Fishing Association of Zamboanga City has revealed their plans to go out to sea without tracking devices as fishing season opened in March. Karagatan Patrol data from March 2 to 31 showed that apparent illegal commercial fishing in Zamboanga City surged to 38 cases once the fishing ban for sardines was lifted.

Jessie Floren, Oceana’s Geographic Information System expert and administrator of Karagatan Patrol, warned that Zamboanga Peninsula has consistently landed in the top 10 hotspots for apparent illegal fishing since 2018. In fact, the platform’s data from 2018-2021 shows Zamboanga City on top of the list of cities and municipalities with the most cases of apparent illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters. Looking at the data on Zamboanga City shows that from 3,086 detections in 2018, apparent illegal commercial fishing increased to 3,152 detections in 2019, and only slightly fell to 2,446 detections in 2020, the year when the coronavirus pandemic forced most Filipinos into isolation.

“The Fisheries Code, as amended by RA 10654, reserves the municipal waters, from the coast up to 15 km, exclusively to our artisanal fisherfolk in support of their constitutional right to have preferential access to the fishing grounds. Without the full implementation of the vessel monitoring rules, which is unequivocally required by RA 10654 for ALL commercial fishing vessels, commercial fishers like those in hotspot areas will continue to prey on our municipal fisherfolk and plunder the depleted fisheries and resources in the municipal waters where they are clearly prohibited by law. We are with the small-scale fishers in demanding strong commitment and the long-wanting political will to defend our ocean and our people by a no-nonsense implementation of the amended Fisheries Code,” said Ramos.


About 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.


Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative:
As climate change increasingly threatens key ocean ecosystems, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative is working around the world to advance evidence-based conservation practices and implement data-driven policies to protect our oceans and the 3 billion people that depend on them. Launched in 2014, Bloomberg’s Vibrant Oceans Initiative currently operates with partners Rare, Oceana, Global Fishing Watch, and the Wildlife Conservation Society in 10 countries that are top fishing nations – Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania, Peru, and the United States – to win science-based policies, protect priority coral reefs least vulnerable to climate change, and increase transparency through the adoption of national fishing data platforms.



For More Information:

Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana 

Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: jsierra@oceana.org 

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