The warning was made as BFAR enforcers, accompanied by activists from the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, conducted fishing license checks this morning at the port of Pio Duran in Albay Province, around 500 kilometers south of Manila.
The Esperanza is in the Philippines for the “Ocean Defender Tour of Southeast Asia 2013.” The tour, which started on July 9 in Apo Island central Philippines, aims to tell the story of the richness and the beauty of the Philippine seas, expose destruction that causes marine degradation and sound the alarm to call for urgent government action to save the Philippine seas from crisis. Greenpeace is calling for more stringent measures to stop illegal fishing in Philippine waters.
“Greenpeace is here to unmask the menace of illegal fishing which is plaguing our country’s seas,” said Vince Cinches, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Oceans Campaigner on board the Esperanza. “Illegal fishing not only steals fish from municipal fishermen and coastal communities—it also steals the future of our oceans by emptying the fish out of the oceans, depleting fish populations and endangering the health of reefs.”
During the inspection today, BFAR and Greenpeace representatives encountered the fishing vessel Divine Mercy, which lacks a valid fishing license. This is a violation of Section 86 of Article 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, which requires all fishing vessels to have licenses. Frank Ombao, BFAR’s Regulating Division Chief explained that Divine Mercy has no license to operate, the crew have no licenses, and the only documents they have are expired safety certificates issued by the Maritime Industry Authority.
In December 2012, another vessel by the same company was apprehended by BFAR for using “super lights” along municipal waters, and for operating without a fishing license. Fishing using “super lights” is a destructive method that is used to attract marine life at night, capturing everything including juvenile fish and non-targeted species.
The Esperanza crew together with Bureau of Fisheries personnel have been patrolling the Burias-Ticao Pass area in Bicol for almost a week. Greenpeace received reports that there were vessels using super lights operating in and around the pass in several areas before the Esperanza arrived. However, during the joint patrol by Greenpeace and BFAR, the waters were eerily empty.
Upon questioning, a crew member of the Divine Mercy, Maestro Pedro Dabian, confirmed that they have been docked in port and have not gone out to sea for almost a week now.
“This is part of the challenges that we face, where commercial vessels need to be caught in the act before we can apprehend them,” said BFAR Region V Director Dennis Del Socorro. “Aside from that, commercial vessels once registered can go to any area and it will be hard for us to monitor them. With our limited resources, we cannot watch all the areas all the time. That is why we also do these daytime checks for licenses of commercial fishing vessels.”
“The fisheries in the Burias and Ticao pass are already overexploited. What is not fully known is how much illegal commercial fishing contributes to this decline,” said Dr Victor Soliman, marine scientist from Bicol University. “The government must acknowledge that there already is a crisis in fisheries, take bold efforts to take measures on fishery management such as better data collection, rehabilitate our seas and do its utmost to improve the plight of the fisherfolk.”
“What we know is that active enforcement works,” said Cinches. “There should be consistent efforts at enforcement and prevention in order to minimize and eventually eliminate illegal and destructive fishing in these waters. Greenpeace is asking President Benigno Aquino III to convene an Oceans Crisis Response Team that will take the lead in establishing a Roadmap to Recovery for our seas. Bold steps are needed in order to restore our oceans.”For more information, please contact:Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner, , +639175363743Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Media Campaigner, , +639178228793