Stricter monitoring of commercial fishing activities urged

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2023 05:51 PM

Fisherfolk tend to their boats along the shores of Barangay Julugan, in Tanza, Cavite on March 20, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Environmental group Oceana Philippines and some artisanal fisherfolk are calling for stricter monitoring of commercial fishing activities.

This comes after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s order to suspend the implementation of Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 266.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has confirmed the suspension of FAO No. 266, which orders vessel monitoring measures and electronic reporting systems for Philippine commercial flagged fishing vessels.

Oceana said that suspension might lead to the intrusion of municipal waters by commercial vessels.

In the fishery sector, municipal waters are waters 15 kilometers from the shore, which is exclusive for artisanal fisherfolk in a certain locality.

Commercial fishermen would have to go to the high seas, or beyond the 15 kilometer delineation line from the shore, to be able to fish.

Artisanal fisherfolk argued that commercial fishermen have been fishing on their grounds, and this might cause environmental destruction.

BFAR said the president's suspension came with the guidance of "coming up with a more strengthened and holistic approaches in addressing IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing."

But small fisherfolk were against the suspension.

"Sana malaman ng ating kaibigan sa commercial fisheries sector na sundin nila ang batas. Nakalulungkot sa aming kalagayan na baka dumami ulit ang illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing," said Robert Ballon, a small-time fisherman.

Oceana said that a large portion of commercial fishermen have not been compliant with the fisheries administrative orders.

"Oceana has been monitoring compliance as of February 2023, 58% compliance. 42% of commercial fishing vessels should not be given license," said Gloria Estenzo Ramos of Oceana PH.

"Kawawa naman ang mga mangingisda, matagal na silang nagsasabi na matindi ang illegal commercial fishing sa ating municipal waters. Kami ay tumatawag sa pangulo at sa executive secretary to fully implement the fisheries code," she added.

The DA-BFAR said they have tentatively scheduled the meeting of the Philippine Committee Against IUU fishing towards the end of this month.

PhilCom is an inter-agency group tasked to recommend policies, programs and projects that would help curb IUU fishing in the country.