Illegal fishing plagues Tañon Strait
(The Philippine Star) - October 3, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An international non-government organization is urging the government to strictly enforce vessel monitoring measures pursuant to the newly-amended Fisheries Code.

This after Oceana, the world’s biggest international NGO focused on marine conservation, completed a seven-day expedition which showed that illegal fishing activities, particularly dynamite and cyanide fishing, continued to operate in Tañon Strait, the country’s largest marine protected area between Cebu and Negros islands.

Oceana, the world’s biggest international NGO focused on marine conservation, gathered valuable information and testimonies of small fisherfolk and local barangay and municipal officials, and monitored the impacts of destructive fishing and the presence of commercial fishing vehicles.

“We were disheartened to see rubbles of blasted coral reefs off the coast of Santa Fe, in Bantayan Island, Cebu,”  Oceana Philippines campaign director Daniel Ocampo said.

Aside from blasting or dynamite fishing, coral damage due to cyanide was also observed in Santa Fe, said Oceana marine scientist Jimely Flores.

Flores said ‘ghost fishing’ was observed in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. Ghost fishing is a situation where fish gets entangled or trapped in abandoned or damaged gears like traps, gill nets and hooklines, and then subsequently attract predator fishes, which likewise get entangled.

“We documented about 12 commercial fishing vessels, either transiting from fishing operations or engaging in actual fishing operations. All the vessels had active fishing gears, of which two were having the same name, and one vessel had no markings,” Flores said.

Strangely, majority of the commercial fishing operations making use of ring nets were being done in areas where payaos were located, and some were working in tandem with municipal fishers, Lorenzo said.

 A payao is a fish collecting devise to attract fishes.

“There were also reports of commercial fishing vessels using ‘baby bag net,’ which is done in tandem with blast fishing, at the northern part of Tañon Strait. The combined bagnet-dynamite operation ensures that all targeted fish will be harvested,” Ocampo said.

For his part, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Region 7 director Andres Bojos said they would extend full support and strong cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, and the local government units.

Bojos said BFAR 7 has provided each of the 42 cities and municipalities along Tañon Strait a 16-horsepower engine with accessories for their ‘bantay dagat’ surveillance patrol boats.

Oceana said there must be close coordination between the DENR and the Protected Area with the LGUs, BFAR, civil society organizations including  academic institutions to determine the status of fisheries in Tañon Strait.

It also pushed for the monitoring of fish catch to determine the Strait’s carrying capacity, which should be the basis for a fisheries management plan for the area.

Apart from this, Oceana sought an inventory of payaos and crafting of  policies on their regulation, control and use.

Other recommendations include the drafting of a  publicly accessible master list of all commercial fishing vessels  transiting in Tañon Strait, the harmonization of respective city and municipal fishing ordinances banning CFVs in their respective municipal waters.

Oceana said the DENR, BFAR, the Department of Justice and LGUs should allocate funds for law enforcement.

ACIRC ANDRES BOJOS ATILDE BANTAYAN ISLAND BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES REGION CEBU AND NEGROS DANIEL OCAMPO DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES FISHING OCEANA SANTA FE
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