Phl is overfished, illegal fishing continues – Oceana
Press Release Date: October 13, 2022
Overfishing, unabated illegal fishing activities, lack of political will to fully implement fisheries laws and regulations including installation of vessel monitoring devices, lack of post-harvest facilities, and encroachment of commercial fishers into municipal waters.
These are some of the major issues and challenges that continue to curtail the country’s fishing industry, according to Oceana, a fishery expert and fisherfolk leaders, at a recent media briefing in Quezon City.
“While the Philippines is endowed with rich marine and aquatic resources — making us ’the center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world,’ in a study among scientists, led by Dr. Kent Carpenter — we have not been very good stewards in ensuring the protection, preservation and sustainability of our fish and marine resources and habitats,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana, an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans.
Dr. Wilfredo Campos, a fishery expert at the University of the Philippines Visayas who joined the briefing virtually said the country’s fish stocks have been declining since the 1990s due to overfishing and rampant illegal fishing activities.
This was affirmed by fisherfolk leader, Ruperto Aleroza, vice chair for the Basic Sectors of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and president of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), who said: “Isaalang-alang ang syentipikong pag-aaral sa kapasidad ng bawat pangisdaan na mag-produce ng maximum sustainable yield, at alamin ang maximum sustainable catch. May mga kondisyones po bago makapangisda ang mga commercial fisher sa municipal water. Hindi pwede nilang kunin ang lahat ng isda sa ating karagatan.”
Another fisherfolk leader, Martha Cadano, from Victoria, Samar and recently appointed by the DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as Eastern Visayas regional fisherfolk director said: “We badly lack postharvest, cold storage and ice making facilities to reduce spoilage, and enable us to store fish and fetch higher prices, and also fish processing facilities to process excess fish catch into high value products.”
“The country’s state of sardines and fisheries has been in the red for decades caused by sheer neglect of our marine environment. The passage of the Fisheries Code in 1998, which was later amended by RA 10654 in 2015, was aimed at restoring our ocean’s abundance, by protecting our 15-kilometer municipal waters, giving our small municipal fisherfolk the preferential right for its use. This protected zone hosts the coral reefs and seabed grass, the spawning grounds of our young sardines and other fish, thus, should be protected from the aggressive fishing pressure of commercial fishing sector,” Ramos said.
Oceana legal and policy director Atty. Liza Eisma Osorio said there is a felt need to fully implement fishery laws and regulations to deter illegal fishing activities and encroachment of commercial fishing vessels into municipal waters. “The lack of political will to fully implement our laws has greatly deprived and continues to deprive our small fisherfolk of their main source of livelihood, income and food. Illegal commercial fishers must be made accountable,” she added.
“One measure to prevent encroachment in municipal waters is the full implementation of the law requiring all registered and qualified commercial fishing vessels to install vessel monitoring measures (VMM) and electronic reporting system (ERS). It is deplorable that to date, only 50 percent has complied, while the rest are clearly fishing in violation of our fisheries laws. Hence, illegal commercial fishing continues to deprive our municipal fisherfolk of their much-needed livelihood, income and food,” said Ramos.
The previous administration has issued a science-based policy to establish the Fisheries Management Area (FMA) system in 12 zones all over the country to ensure the sustainable management of fish stocks in municipal, national waters, and Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, through ensuring a science-based, participatory, and transparent governance mechanisms.
Atty. Rhea Yray-Frossard, Oceana campaign and research director, shared the March 2022 report from the Citizens Scorecard that monitors the FMA implementation, saying: “Of the 12 FMAs established, three (FMAs 7, 8 and 12) are performing well and serving as models for the rest. FMAs 7,11 and 12 have also adopted the National Sardine Management Plan (NSMP), added Frossard, who also serves as the FMA and sardines campaign team lead.
She said the effective implementation of the NMSP under the FMA system will sustainably save our sardines and fisheries, while providing municipal fisherfolk with stable source of food and livelihood.
“Small fisherfolk are key to protecting, preserving and nurturing our oceans, but they have to be empowered and supported by the government,” added Daniel Ocampo, Oceana senior campaign manager. He said Oceana launched “Karagatan Patrol” in 2019 in tandem with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), where fisherfolk, citizens and media can report illegal fishing activities in their respective areas, and for authorities to investigate and apprehend perpetrators.
Finally, Atty. Ramos said there are much to be done, and Oceana is doing its share since 2014, when it put up an office in the Philippines.
“Together with our key allies in government and civil society, we have made tremendous strides amid continuing challenges,” she said, enumerating the following:
- Transparency in ocean governance. This includes “Karagatan Patrol,” an online platform for reporting illegal fishing activities, and issuance of rules for vessel monitoring, vigorously pushing for its full implementation;
- Science-based fisheries management, by supporting the Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) system, adopting FMA 7, 8 and 12 good practices (among the best performers in the March 2022 FMA Scorecard), and promulgation of implementing guidelines;
- Habitat protection, through mangrove forest restoration and the declaration of selected islands, bays and coves as marine protected areas (MPA). Oceana is leading the efforts, in tandem with host fishing and coastal communities and local government units, and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, FMA 8 Management Body through a resolution and Congressman Christopherson Yap and Congresswoman Luz Mercado, who filed bills to declare Panaon Island in Southern Leyte as a protected seascape under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act.
- To deter against illegal dump-and-fill projects, the Department of the Interior and Local Government issued a strong policy, under DILG Memorandum Circular 2022–018, reminding LGUs of their duty to strictly comply with the safeguards and mechanisms under various laws to fight and deter ecologically destructive projects.
- Fight against plastic pollution, wherein Oceana together with 50 other petitioners – youth, children, waste picker, local government officials, and private citizens – urged the National Solid Waste Management Commission to list and phase out all non-environmentally acceptable products, primarily single-use plastics; and
- Finally, Oceana continues to work closely and strongly with partners — artisanal sector, academe, and LGUs — in the full and effective implementation of our fisheries laws.
In closing, Ramos made an appeal: “Nawa’y palakasin pa natin ang ating pagtutulungan upang makamit ang minimithing national food and nutritional security, lalung-lalo na sa kasapatan sa isda at mga yamang-dagat, at mabigyan ang ating maliliit na mangingisda at kanilang pamilya ng mainam na kabuhayan at kita. At panghuli, patuloy nating protektahan ang ating mga karagatan laban sa mga ilegal na gawaing pangingisda.”
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: 09178214430 E-mail: email@example.com