Ostensible commercial fishing in municipal waters pervades despite COVID19 pandemic; Full implementation of vessel monitoring pushed - Oceana Philippines
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Ostensible commercial fishing in municipal waters pervades despite COVID19 pandemic; Full implementation of vessel monitoring pushed

Press Release Date: September 23, 2021

Apparent commercial fishing in municipal waters pervades despite the COVID19 pandemic with a mere 4.7 percent reduction in the number of what appeared to be commercial fishing vessels inside the municipal waters, 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 to complete the top five local governments. 

Oceana reports the seemingly continuing intrusion of commercial fishing vessels in the designated 15-kilometer from the shoreline municipal waters that is exclusive to municipal and artisanal fisherfolk, as prescribed by the Amended Fisheries Code (RA 10654). Illegal commercial fishing has long been the source of misery of artisanal fisherfolks who are counted among the poorest of the poor. The municipal waters are reserved for their preferential use and access under the Constitution and the Fisheries Code as amended. 

The international marine conservation group presented the new and improved features of Karagatan Patrol in a forum with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in celebration of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo) today. The  forum started with the Opening Message of Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Michael P. Ong, National Coast Watch Council Secretariat. 

“The DILG is calling on coastal local government units that they perform their mandates in relation to the implementation of our environmental and fisheries laws and our issuances have focused on providing guidelines on implementing fisheries laws in municipal waters and the auditing of local government units’ compliance based on the Fisheries Compliance Audit,” said Undersecretary for Peace and Order Bernardo Florece, Jr. “During this time of the pandemic, it is important that our coastal resources are protected to continue supporting our country’s need for food and livelihood for coastal communities.  We support Oceana’s continuing efforts to highlight the need to address illegal fishing through Karagatan Patrol.” 

Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos announced that the citizens’ transparency platform is now equipped with new functions to help government enforcement agencies, local government units, and other stakeholders in the monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities in the Philippine water. 

 ”The Fisheries Administrative Order 266 that mandates the installation of vessel monitoring measures was signed by Agriculture Secretary William Dar in October 2020. We are urging the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to fully implement it to deter illegal, reckless, and irresponsible behavior in our waters. The data from Karagatan Patrol only serve as leads to law enforcement agencies but tracking of the location, identification of the offenders, arrest and seizure, filing of cases in court and getting the violators penalized are facilitated if the vessel monitoring system is in place,” explained Ramos.  

Data from Karagatan Patrol also show that an estimated 145,094 vessels using super lights were detected in the country’s municipal waters from 2018-2021. Of the 12 Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs), detection was highest at 37,738 in the municipal waters of FMA 4 which encompasses Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga City, Isabela City, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. 

Meanwhile, marine protected areas are also at risk to encroachment of commercial fishing vessels, with the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ticao Burias Pass Protected Seascape showing possible intrusions with detections numbering 1,129 and 1,744, respectively during the same period in 2018-2021. 

Launched in 2019 in partnership with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, Karagatan Patrol Facebook group with almost 4,000 membership has played a crucial role in sharing boat detection maps using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). It detects lure lights that are likely used by commercial fishing boats. 

With its new features, Karagatan Patrol analytics can now also present specific data on boat detection by using maps of Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs), the country’s territorial and internal waters, municipal waters, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Kalayaan Island Group, and even the protected seascapes which are provided safeguards by the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act (Republic Act No. 7586) as amended by RA 11038, the Expanded NIPAS Act. Furthermore, the platform also provides users with locations of law enforcement agencies, closed season areas, and a breakdown of boat detection data per region and province. 

During the forum, Jessie Floren, Oceana’s resident Geographic Information System expert and the database administrator for Karagatan Patrol, gave an overview of the improvements made, such as the additional tools developed to expand the utility of Karagatan Patrol, which included layer control to view the new maps; zoom control for easier inspection; and distance measurement and area calculation. 

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 and cities with the highest number of apparent intrusions of commercial fishing vessels inside the municipal water, 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. (END)  


For More Information: 

Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana  

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

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