ILOILO – The provincial government here is reiterating its call to all the chief executives and agencies concerned to be active in clearing the Visayan Sea of illegal fishers.
“It seems [to] that only the Iloilo Provincial Bantay Dagat Task Force is sustaining its operation,” lamented Provincial Administrator Raul Banias in an email. Banias issued the statement following the 34 positive operations of the task force more than a month after their members were reshuffled on April 15.
Of these operations, 21 involve the use of trawl, 10 were cast nests, and three were Danish seine (two super hulbot and one was modified). The latest operation was last May 14 wherein 22 fishermen from Barangay Bacal, Carles were arrested and charged for using Danish seine.
According to Banias, they also received reports that Danish seine operation “is unhampered, especially in the waters of Masbate”. “I wonder what BFAR, MARICOM, [and] PCG are doing to implement FAO 246?” he asked.
Fisheries Administrative Order 246 bans the operation of Danish seine and modified Danish seine nationwide since 2013. Any person who will violate the order will face a penalty of imprisonment of two to ten years or fine not less than P100,000 to P500,000 or both. The fishing boat and its gears will also be confiscated.
Prior to its issuance, FAO 222 allowed the operation of modified Danish seine in water beyond 15 kilometers from the shoreline of any municipality.
Provided, however, that it shall not use tom weights or any method or accessories that can destroy the coral reefs, sea grass bed and other marine habitats. The minimum mesh size of the net shall not also be less than three centimeters.
But fishermen continued to use tom weights and other illegal devices to capture more fish regardless of its possible effects in the state and future of their marine resources.
In 2011, the governors of Iloilo, Cebu, Masbate and Negros Occidental signed a covenant to protect, conserve and rehabilitate the coastal and marine resources of the Visayan Marine Triangle.
The four met regularly to update one another of their achievements on maritime law enforcement and last year, they passed a resolution urging President Benigno Aquino III to declare Visayan Sea a marine protected area.
Specifically, it sought to declare and establish as protected area the waters beyond 15-kilometer radius of any municipalities and cities surrounding the Visayan Sea.
Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., who moved for the passage of the resolution, believed that the declaration can boost their campaign and ensure the lifelong protection of Visayan Sea.
But if no one will support and act on it, the campaign to protect the Visayan Sea, which is used to be the richest fishing ground in the Philippines, will be in vain, he stressed