Karagathon launched to find tech solutions to stop illegal fishing

Fighting illegal fishing requires transparency in ocean governance. According to Global Fishing Watch, transparency “not only supports ocean conservation, but can also protect local economies by helping to reveal persistent illegal behavior of industrial fishing vessels and reward compliant vessels with easier access to port to land their catch. It is a cost-effective method of monitoring and control.”

As a step towards enhanced monitoring, control, and surveillance of fishing activities, the first Karagathon was launched on July 1 by the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Science and Technology – Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) and Oceana.

“The Department of Agriculture supports the holding of Karagathon as this initiative is a way of addressing illegal fishing activities and ensuring sustainable fish production for the benefit of small fisherfolk and their families in all coastal areas nationwide. Secondly, it will encourage the development of digital technologies for the sustainable development of the country’s blue economy,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar in a statement.

In another statement released to the media, DOST-ASTI recognizes the seriousness of illegal fishing and its adverse effects on the marine ecosystem and the economy. “We are confident that through the Karagathon 2020 competition, we can showcase Filipino ingenuity in leveraging science and technology to provide innovative solutions to address this challenge,” the statement added.

Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos urged tech-savvy individuals and teams to join Karagathon and submit technology solutions until July 15, 2020.

The first Karagathon will focus on developing technology-based innovations to address the gaps in monitoring, controlling and tracking down illegal fishing activities in different parts of the country.

Oceana reported the presence of presumably commercial fishing activities in the municipal waters using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) technology and this intensified during the enhanced community quarantine period in March to May than in January-February this year. VIIRS is a satellite sensor that can detect fishing boats that employ lights to attract fish at night.

Commercial fishing vessels can be found within the municipal waters and marine protected areas where they are prohibited, pursuant to the amended Fisheries Code, Republic Act 10654, and RA 11038, the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018, respectively.

The number of night lights spotted in municipal waters in January registered at 3,531 and 3,602 in February. The figures jumped to 5,950 in March; 4,487 in April; and 4,682 in May.

The latest figures were gathered by Karagatan Patrol online platform established by Oceana in partnership with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines to report and monitor illegal fishing in municipal waters. The top 10 provinces with the highest number of presumably commercial fishing boats detected by Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) satellite  in March to May are the following: (1) Zamboanga City-1,110; (2) Tongkil, Sulu-800; (3) Linapacan, Palawan-531; (4) San Pascual, Masbate-493; (5) Milagros, Masbate-489; (6) Cuyo, Palawan-406; (7) Calauag, Quezon-399; (8) Cawayan, Masbate-391; (9) San Jose, Occidental Mindoro-379; (10) Taytay, Palawan-370.

“We like to see many to join Karagathon and share their knowledge and skills in coming up with solutions that protect our fisheries and marine ecosystem from irresponsible and illegal fishing activities due to weak implementation of our laws.  Our local government units need help in its monitoring, control and surveillance efforts to prevent commercial fishing vessels from entering the municipal waters,” explained Ramos.

Ramos said protecting municipal waters requires collaborative efforts not just within the public sector but also with stakeholders from civil society and the private sector. She encourages the public to visit http://www.karagatanpatrol.org/, a free web-based application to monitor movement within municipal waters and report infractions of our fisheries laws to enforcement agencies.

Overfishing, premature capture of spawning fishes, and destruction of marine habitats are serious threats that our municipal waters face.

“It is alarming to find continuous violations of our national laws despite the public health emergency that the country is facing. Some coastal local government have enforcement challenges, considering the attention on implementing the quarantine policy and ensuring the safety of their constituency while alleviating the economic burden of the people,” Ramos explained.

Ramos said Karagathon participants can develop technological solutions to detect, identify and analyze, and recommend solutions to illegal fishing. “The capacity to track and detect violations is an important element in law enforcement. Thus, more effective means of detection which uses technology must be considered by our national and local enforcement agencies as this will also ensure food security and peace and order in the long term,” she added.

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. (END) 

For more information: 

Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager Mobile: 09178214430 E-mailjsierra@oceana.org  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/oceana.philippines   Twitter: @oceana_ph     Instagram: @oceana_ph 

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