LMP, Oceana ink partnership vs illegal fishing

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The struggle to stop, fight and deter illegal fishing in the country’s municipal waters attained heightened level with the forging last week of a partnership between League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) and Oceana, an international marine advocacy organization.

At the same time, a pioneering online reporting, Karagatan Patrol Facebook group, was launched to encourage citizens to report illegal-fishing activities.

Meanwhile, based on analyzed data from satellite sensor, called Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), and in full support of the government’s full implementation of the ban on commercial fishing in municipal waters, Oceana last week released its list of top 10 hot spots nationwide based on frequency of illegal-fishing activities at nighttime in municipal waters in 2018.

They are Zamboanga City; Tongkil, Sulu; Hadji Muhammad Ajul, Basilan; Santa Cruz, Marinduque; Cuyo, Palawan; Linapacan, Palawan; Languyan, Tawi-tawi; San Francisco, Quezon; Araceli, Palawan; and Magsaysay, Palawan.

In the 2014 data from VIIRS, Hadji Muhammad Ajul was in Rank 31 but swung upward to Rank 3 last year. The same goes for San Francisco, which was in Rank 16 in 2014 but went up to Rank 8 in 2018.

LMP agreed to promote the Karagatan Patrol Facebook group (https://tinyurl.com/KaragatanPatrol) to encourage citizens’ reporting of illegal fishing.

The reports can be posted on the group page or e-mailed to [email protected]. Oceana will relay the information to the appropriate agencies and monitor actions taken.

Similarly, feedback will be provided to the reporter and will be published in the Karagatan Patrol Facebook group.

Commercial fishing is banned in municipal waters under the Fisheries Code, as amended in 2015, which has stringent measures to fight illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, such as vessel monitoring technology for all commercial fishing vessels from 3.1 gross tonnage and beyond. The Department of the Interior and Local Government issued in April 2018 its implementing guidelines to all coastal cities and municipalities, to regulate and monitor all fisheries activities under its jurisdiction.

“The ocean means food, livelihood and beauty. It is life itself in a sense. We are happy and excited to partner with Oceana in addressing issues that seek to protect the ocean and the people,” said Mayor Ma. Fe Brondial of Socorro, Oriental Mindoro, and LMP national president.

LMP Secretary-General Mayor Abraham Burahan of Panglima Tahil, Sulu, welcomed Oceana as a strong partner in ensuring safe, healthy and sustainable oceans and the livelihoods of those dependent on abundant seas.

“We look forward to a very fruitful partnership as we move to heighten our actions that will benefit our people,” Burahan added.

“We welcome this highly significant collaboration with the LMP to bring back fisheries abundance in our waters. It is timely as our oceans are buffeted by simultaneous pressures from humanity, aggravating and aggravated by the destructive impacts of the climate crisis we all face. We need to work together closely now, more than ever, and manage sustainably our fisheries, to protect our oceans and feed our people,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana in the Philippines.

“Despite the prohibition, commercial fishing vessels continue to hound the narrow body of waters between Cebu and Negros Island. We were helpless without the decisive enforcement of the law. It was only after the effective cooperation of [Central Visayas] enforcement agencies in Tañon Strait that we experienced bountiful fish catch. We have a strong law but this should be tied with efficient and competent implementation,” said Veda Raunillo, fisherfolk from Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.

Working to protect and restore the world’s oceans, Oceana in the Philippines aids the government in analyzing data from VIIRS to detect by satellites supposedly dark environment, such as large bodies of water, artificial light sources or superlights.

These are likely used by fishing boats, such as purse seiners and ring netters, which were found inside prohibited areas in municipal waters.