The international advocacy organization Oceana has issued a call intended to encourage stakeholders of the Visayan Sea to start monitoring fishing operations using an infrared satellite. This is in consideration on the absence of a vessel at sea to check on fishing activities in light of the closed season which commenced November 15, 2019.
Every November, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-VI) declares the Visayan Sea closed for fishing of sardines, herrings and mackerels. The closed season is enforced for three months or it ends on February 15, 2020.
Oceana urged the use of infrared satellite provided by Karagatan Patrol, a Facebook group that it helped set-up together with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP).
The call was issued by Oceana after a positive outcome was reported by Concepcion, Iloilo town mayor Dr. Raul Banias who used Karagatan Patrol support service which resulted in the arrest of four commercial fishing vessels – three Super Hulbot and one Trolbot (trawlbot) – off the municipal waters of the coastal town.
According to Mayor Banias, “Karagatan Patrol reports from infrared satellite offered leads on the presence of illegal commercial fishing operations inside municipal waters. This is the reason why we need to act resolutely in protecting our municipal waters in order to replenish the depleting fish stocks, especially for our poor fisherfolks.”
The successful operation was attributed on the composite team of BFAR’s Monitoring, Control and Surveillance team, Coast Guard, and the Provincial Bantay Dagat Task Force of Iloilo. BFAR seized the fishing boats and filed suit against the crew of these boats.
In spite of interventions like the closed season, National Stock Assessment Program data for Region VI have revealed that fish population have declined by as much as 70 percent from the 1950’s period.
As an organization who is dedicated to protect the world’s oceans, Oceana believed that effective enforcement of the closed season needs all the help that it can get both from the local government and law enforcement agencies.
“We commend local government leaders like Mayor Banias for exercising the much-needed political will and collaboration to protect our oceans and sustainably manage our fisheries,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice-president of Oceana.
“Transparency is a key element that led to several successful operations” stressed Ramos, and “Karagatan Patrol can be maximized to strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance; and it is free.”
Ramos emphasized that protecting the municipal waters should be complemented with a vessel monitoring system for it is required by the Fisheries Code, as amended. Working together is an imperative for the national and local government agencies.
Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies and stakeholders to restore the abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources. Learn more about https://oceana.org/