A total of 13 commercial fishing vessels had been apprehended by the joint operative team of the Philippine Coast Guard, the local police and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the waters off Masbate, Albay, Ragay Gulf and Mamburao following its week-long operations that started in October 10 this year.
BFAR director Atty. Asis G. Perez said that all crew and owners of all fishing vessels are now in jail and the corresponding cases had been filed against 12 operators; while the other one is in progress as of press time.
Perez said that the government will continue to intensify its efforts to go after the perpetrators of illegal fishing in the country. He said, during the opening of the Fish Conservation Week program yesterday in Quezon City, that illegal fishing continues to affect adversely our fisheries resources by killing even the smallest of all aquatic organisms and destroying its habitats.
Noting that the fishing vessel caught fishing near a payao (fish aggregating device) in Mamburao was found fishing using explosives, Perez lamented that - “The sad part of this illegal activity is that what they only caught is 20 percent of the fish in that area; the remaining 80 percent are wasted as it sink underwater.”
Of the 13 commercial fishing vessels apprehended, six (6) are caught off the waters in Ragay Gulf, five (5) in Albay and one (1) each in Masbate and Mamburao. All vessels violated Section 86 (fishing without license) and Section 104 (employing unlicensed crew) of the Fisheries Code of 1998 or RA 8550. In addition, the fishing vessel caught in Mamburao also violated Sec. 88 or the use of explosives for fishing; while the one in Masbate violated Sec. 93 or fishing using superlights of RA 8550.
Under the law, the actual use of explosives for illegal fishing is punishable by imprisonment ranging from 5 years to 10 years of imprisonment and the forfeiture of the fishing vessel, fishing equipment and catch.
The use of superlights in municipal waters carries with it imprisonment from six (6) months to two (2) years or a fine of P5,000.00 per superlight or both at the discretion of the court. In addition, the superlight, fishing gears and the catch are also confiscated.
On the other hand, unauthorized fishing or fishing without a permit or license in the Philippine waters is punishable by a fine equivalent to the value of the catch or P10,000.00 whichever is higher; imprisonment of six (6) months; confiscation of catch and fishing gears and automatic revocation of license.
Moreover, the owner/operator of a commercial fishing vessel employing unlicensed fisherfolk of fishworker shall be fined P500.00 each for every month that the same has been employed and/or P1,000.00 for every month for each unlicensed crew member who has been deployed.
BFAR is currently beefing up its Law Enforcement Quick Response Team in all of its 16 regional offices nationwide as well as in its head office in Manila in its current thrust to curb illegal fishing in the country.
Perez calls on all stakeholders to be involved and to support government’s efforts against illegal fishing by reporting to the nearest BFAR regional office in their area any forms of illegal fishing activities. Melannie R. Guerra, OIC, Information and Public Relations Group, BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES