COMMERCIAL fishing boats detected in municipal waters increased by nearly a third in the first four months of the year, according to data released by Oceana Philippines on Wednesday.
Oceana Philippines data showed there were a total of 18,564 commercial in the January-to-April period this year from the 14,089 commercial vessels detected in the same period last year. This represented an increase of 31.76 percent.
The data was obtained using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), a tool that aims to combat illegal fishing and protect marine biodiversity, specifically in municipal waters.
“Irresponsible fishing has reduced many wild fish populations to historically low levels at a time when the world needs its oceans more than ever,” Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said. The locality that recorded the highest number of commercial vessels was Zamboanga City with 1,045 boats.
This was a 74.17-percent increase from last year’s 600 commercial fishing vessels.
The localities included in the top 10 were Milagros, Masbate, with 956 commercial fishing vessels; San Pascual in Masbate, 645; Coron in Palawan, 609; and San Francisco in Quezon, 554. The list includes Hadji Mohammad Ajul in Basilan with 530 commercial fishing vessels; Tongkil in Sulu, 507; Santa Cruz in Marinduque, 474; Claveria in Masbate, 428; and Cuyo in Palawan, 424.
Among the top 10, San Pascual in Masbate posted the highest increase at 907.81 percent, from only 64 commercial fishing vessels detected in municipal waters in 2018.
Deploying commercial vessels in municipal waters is a violation of the Fisheries Code of the Philippines as amended by RA 10654. Under the law, only registered fisherfolk and their organizations are allowed to fish in municipal waters. Ramos said despite the increase in the number of commercial fishing vessels detected in municipal waters, there is hope.
Global Fishing Watch
She said greater transparency can help improve the plight of oceans and wildlife worldwide. One of the ways is to use technology such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
Ramos said Global Fishing Watch (GFW) and Oceana are advocating for increased AIS requirements and for more countries to publish their Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data, as Indonesia and Peru are doing.
“One way of addressing the issue of transparency at seas around the world is by increasing the number of vessels visible to the public, and making the data available and accessible,” Ramos said.
“This is where Global Fishing Watch comes in. It uses cutting-edge technology to visualize, track and share data about global fishing activity as it happens and puts it in a free platform,” she added.
GFW Chief Executive Officer Tony Long said they are in discussions with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which he said seems “receptive” to the AIS.
Using systems like AIS, Long said, can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 14 which aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
He said 2020 is a crucial year, particularly for the SDG 14 targets—eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as prohibiting all forms of fisheries subsidies.
The AIS, Long said, can help provide incentives for fishermen to comply, as well as determine where best to implement subsidies.
“It [meeting with BFAR] felt like a very pro-ductive session, there were lots of good questions,” Long said. “It was a very positive meeting.”
Commercial fishing is banned in municipal waters under the Fisheries Code, as amended in 2015. The Code has stringent measures to fight IUU, 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.
Working to protect and restore the world’s oceans, Oceana in the Philippines aids the government is analyzing data from VIIRS to detect—by satellites—supposedly dark environment, such as large bodies of water, artificial light sources or super lights.
These are likely used by fishing boats, such as purse seiners and ring netters, which were found inside prohibited areas in municipal waters.
Image credits: AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File