Bicol communities winning battles against illegal commercial fishing

Press release - December 13, 2013
Legazpi City, 13 December 2013--Bicol communities are on their way to winning their battle against illegal fishing, a joint team of stakeholders and NGOs said today in a press conference in Legazpi City.

The group is composed of fisherfolk, local government officials from Sorsogon City, Pilar, Donsol, Ligao, Pio Duran, and representatives from the Diocese of Sorsogon and Greenpeace Southeast Asia. They noted that the strong support of local government and civil society against illegal fishing activities in the area have been key in ensuring that the region’s municipal waters remain solely for the use of local artisanal fishermen.

The announcement came at the conclusion of a week-long joint community patrol conducted in Burias-Ticao Pass. The joint patrol noted the absence of illegal fishers from December 9 to 12, 2013, during a season when illegal fisheries are rampant.

“Normally at this time of the year we get reports of rampant illegal commercial fishing activities out there at the seas in the evening,” said Lito Pavia, Bantay Dagat head from Pio Duran, Albay. “This time no illegal fishing activities were reported.  This was verified when we patrolled the blue strip of waters between the islands of Burias and Ticao in Masbate.”

“A single illegal commercial fishing boat can rob 70 small municipal fishers of potential fish catch,” added Pavia.  “If we can just take out even one illegal commercial boat from the sea, it would mean an additional 729 kilograms per day or 175 metric tons per year of potential fish catch which can be shared by municipal fisherfolk.”

Based on the initial report shared by Diom Ballebar of the Fisheries Regulatory and Enforcement Division of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region V, 20% of the registered commercial fishing vessels in the region are already looking for other fishing grounds. “This means that the multi-stakeholders campaign against illegal fishing around Burias-Ticao is paying off,” Balleber said.

In July 2013, during the Oceans Defender Tour, the Greenpeace ship M/Y Esperanza together with BFAR Region V personnel patrolled these same waters and apprehended commercial fishing vessels without proper licenses and which use prohibited fishing gear.

Vince Cinches, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Oceans Campaigner said that Greenpeace together with the Bicolanos and an even bigger group of Ocean Defenders are here once again to raise the ante against illegal fishing activities.  “Greenpeace believes that the strong, unwavering commitment of Bicolanos resulted in the reduction of illegal commercial fishing activities in Burias-Ticao Pass,” said Cinches. “We strongly urge other provinces to do the same because the commercial fishing operations that got booted out of these waters will try to find other fishing grounds in other provinces and steal from municipal fisherfolk.”

Meanwhile, Greenpeace welcomed the announcement made today by Albay 3rd District Representative Fernando Gonzalez regarding the creation of a composite enforcement team coming from Pio Duran and Ligao. The enforcement team will cover the western waters of Albay.

“We would like to lead by example,” Rep. Gonzales said in his announcement. “We will make Pio Duran the center for fisheries and marine protection instead of a haven of illegal commercial fishers. I will push for a House Resolution that will institutionalize the initiatives done in the Bicol Region so it can be replicated in other areas of the country.”

The alarming illegal fishing activities in the Burias and Ticao pass has prompted the Bicol Bishops led by Bishop Arturo M. Bastes of the Diocese of Sorsogon to write to President Aquino in 2010.  President Aquino ordered the enforcement agencies in the region to immediately address the problem.

“After many years of hard work and sacrifice from many people in various sectors, fisherfolk are now reporting to us that they have noticed an increase of almost a kilo in their fish catch,” said Bishop Bastes. “However, I tell these fisherfolk that this could be temporary as illegal fishers from nearby degraded fishing grounds might come here and fish again.”

Greenpeace is calling on the Philippine government to take stronger measures to curb illegal fishing through:

  1. No new commercial fishing licenses in recognition of the fact that fishing efforts have already exceeded the capacity of our natural resources to recover;
  2. Stronger vessel registry and licensing systems. Even as no new permits are issued all existing fishing vessels must be registered to establish accurate data on fishing vessels; and
  3. Maintaining the 15 kilometer zone for exclusive to municipal fisherfolk.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.  

For more information, please contact:

Vince Cinches
Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Oceans Campaigner
Mobile No. 0917-5363754

Vigie Benosa-Llorin
Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Media Campaigner
Mobile No. 0918-2936786