Oceana, local government and fisherfolk groups score slow implementation of commercial fishing vessel monitoring measures - Oceana Philippines
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Oceana, local government and fisherfolk groups score slow implementation of commercial fishing vessel monitoring measures

Press Release Date: August 4, 2021

International non-government organization, Oceana together with local government and fisherfolk groups scored the slow implementation of vessel monitoring measures by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as can be seen in the report of the Integrated Marine Environment Monitoring System (IMEMS).

Oceana shared that as of July 9, 2021, BFAR was able to install tracking device in 643 catcher fishing vessels, (13.2%) out of the target 4,876 commercial fishing vessels, nine months after the issuance of the rules on vessel monitoring measures (Fisheries Administrative Order 266). The said FAO was issued three years after FAO 260, series of 2018 that came out for commercial fishing vessels targeting highly migratory and straddling fish stocks but excludes from its coverage those fishing vessels that weigh 3.1 gross tons to less than 30 gross tons.

The provincial government of Palawan and fisherfolk groups joined Oceana in the call to fast-track the implementation of FAO 266 that was signed by Agriculture Secretary William Dar in October 2020.  

The groups underscored the full implementation of the vessel monitoring measures as an important legacy of this administration to address illegal fishing and ensure sustainable fisheries management in the country through effective monitoring, control and surveillance of commercial fishing activities in municipal waters. The protection of and banning of commercial fishing in the 15-kilometer water from the shoreline is one of the measures to address the destruction of critical marine habitat and spawning ground of fisheries resources in municipal waters under the Fisheries Code as amended by RA 10654.

“We are alarmed that intrusion of commercial fishing vessels in municipal waters remains pervasive due to slow implementation of measures that are in the Philippine Fisheries Code, as amended by Republic Act 10654.. We waited for five years for the rules on vessel monitoring measures to apply to all commercial fishing vessels to be issued. We will not allow continuous neglect even as we know that our poor artisanal fisherfolk suffer because our fisheries resources are pillaged by the illegal intrusion of commercial fishing in municipal waters,” said Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos.

Since 2019, Oceana has been monitoring apparent commercial fishing vessels activities inside the municipal waters all over the country through the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) night lights detection. The results of these are regularly reported to authorities and shared in the Karagatan Patrol Facebook group.

Last May, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) required an explanation in their efforts in addressing illegal fishing from the top 20 hotspot municipalities with the highest number of apparent intrusion of commercial fishing vessels inside the municipal water, based on the maps and data shared by Oceana. Among the local governments that the DILG wrote to are the municipalities of Cuyo, Coron, Taytay, Linapacan and Magsaysay in the Province of Palawan.

Recognizing the need to protect municipal waters for the welfare of municipal fisherfolk and for a sustainable fishery management, the Provincial Board of Palawan issued Resolution 15972 on June 9, 2021 urging the Department of Agriculture-BFAR to implement FAO 266, requiring vessel monitoring measures for all commercial fishing vessels in Palawan.  

“We recognize the need to improve transparency, monitoring and enforcement of our fisheries laws that is why we issued this resolution. We need BFAR to help us augment our capacity for monitoring, control and surveillance of our municipal waters,” said Board Member Juan Antonio Alvarez.  

Alvarez also filed a resolution in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, opposing the proposed House Bill 7853 that will allow commercial fishing inside the 10.1 to 15 kilometer-zone from the shoreline that is part of the municipal water. “Instead of allowing commercial fishing vessels in municipal waters, we should ensure adequate protection of our fragile marine ecosystems and resources which has supported the livelihood and food security of our municipal fisherfolk during the COVID19 pandemic,” Alvarez added.

Ruperto Aleroza, Vice Chair for the Basic Sectors of the National Anti-Poverty Commission and president of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan  joined the call for the urgent implementation of FAO 266.

Para po sa aming mangingisda, ang pagpapatupad ng vessel monitoring measures ang aming huling baraha para mapigilan ang walang habas na pagpasok ng mga palakayang komersyal sa mga pangmunisipal na katubigan. (For the municipal fisherfolk like us, the implementation of vessel monitoring measures is our last card to stop the intrusion of commercial fishers in the municipal water.),” said Aleroza.

Matagal nang naghihikahos ang mga maliliit na mangingisda dahil sa pakikipagkumpitensya sa mga malalaking palakaya na umuubos ng mga isdang maaari sana naming mahuli. Sinisira din ng  pagpasok ng komersyal sa municipal water ang mga bahura at nauubos ang mga isdang makakatulong sana sa patuloy na pagpaparami ng mga isda sa ating mga baybay-dagat.  Kami po ay nananawagan sa BFAR na ipatupad ng maayos at walag pagkiling ang mga probisyon ng ating mga batas pampangisdaan para sa kapakanan nating lahat. (Poverty pervades among small-scale artisanal fisherfolk for as long as I can remember because of unfair competition with big commercial fishing operators. The entry of commercial fishers in municipal water has destroyed our coral reefs and have also taken out juvenile fish that should be left to grow and reproduce to replenish our depleting fish stocks. We call on the BFAR to effectively implement without bias or favor the provisions of the Fisheries Code),” he added. 

The full implementation of vessel monitoring measures is tackled in the meetings of the Management Body of the Fisheries Management Areas. Reports reaching Oceana indicate that the delay stems from the transporting of devices from the BFAR central office in the National Capital Region to its regional offices in different parts of the country. 

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 the abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.

For more information, contact:Joyce SierraCommunications Manager, Oceana Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: jsierra@oceana.org Facebook: www.facebook.com/oceana.philippinesTwitter: @oceana_ph Instagram: @oceana_ph