Stronger penalties and strict enforcement of the amended Fisheries Code are seen as the best solution to the problem on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing.
This was the consensus reached among 300 participants of the National Summit on Participatory Governance Towards Sustainable Fishing last Oct. 28 in Manila.
They signed a “Katipunan Declaration on Sustainable Fisheries,” which calls on BFAR and other government agencies to protect fishing habitats and livelihood by banning the use of active fishing gear within the municipal waters.
“Massive illegal fishing has declined the fish catch and increased poverty incidence in the fishery sector. We are now in a better position to push for sustainable fisheries,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said in a speech during the summit.
The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 as amended by RA 10654, An Act to Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, was presented during the summit.
The increased fines, graduation of penalties and an array of administrative penalties, among other salient features of the amended Fisheries law are seen to deter illegal fishing activities.
All commercial vessels are required to install vessel monitoring measures to ensure sustainable harvesting. Active fishing gears including bag net and tuna longline are prohibited.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is now empowered to prosecute violators and order any IUU fishing even within the municipal waters to cease and desist operations.
Weak enforcement of fishery laws have caused the exploitation of the marine resources which eventually led to the increase in poverty incidence in the fisheries sector, said supervising aquaculturist Melanie Guerra, officer-in-charge of FPED.
Guerra said the fishermen are among the poorest. The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the biggest fisheries production but also the highest poverty incidence, she said.
“People should realize that the more they destroy our marine ecosystem, the more our fishermen will have a hard time catching fish,” said BFAR National Director Asis Perez.
The amended Fisheries law has more teeth to curb illegal fishing activities. However it won’t be effective without government support and empowered coastal communities.
The call for government support is the reason why the Department of Agriculture has increased the budget of BFAR to improve law enforcement and provide better projects for the fisheries sector.
The bureau’s budget has doubled to P6.6 billion for 2016 from P3.3 billion in 2010.
BFAR enforcers have grown to 200 with more than 100 patrol and rescue boats deployed all over the Philippines.
Of the P6.6-billion budget, P4.36 billion (66 percent) is allocated for the operations, which include the establishment of community fish landing sites, freezers in market stalls all over the country, regulatory services, monitoring and surveillance among many others.
There is also a budget of P787 million (12 percent) for projects proposed by the fisherfolk themselves in the bottom-up budgeting approach.
About P1 billion is allocated for fisheries and aquatic resources regulation services, P35 million for fisheries policy services, P1.24 billion for technical advisory services, P1.05 billion for supply services for fishery productivity, and P999 million for supply of infrastructure facilities and equipment for fishery industry.
The Katipunan Declaration is a result of the discussion among fisheries stakeholders during the Sustainable Fisheries Summit held in October 19.