Enforcement summit for Visayas Sea conservation eyed

ILOILO -- Alarmed by the decreasing fish catch in the Visayas Sea, an enforcement summit will be held on April to discuss the proposed ecosystems approach to fisheries management in the country’s third largest fishing ground.

This developed after the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that the catch per unit effort for the past five years in Visayas Sea was 34 percent lower than target. It also noted a decrease of length at maturity of sardines from 13 to 10.2 centimeter. The sardines’ lifetime egg contribution also fell to just 16 percent. Ideally, it should be more than 40 percent.

Communications associate Candeze Mongaya of Oceana Philippines said the enforcement summit will be attended by the governors, mayors and concerned enforcement agencies in Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Masbate, Cebu and Capiz.

Mongaya revealed the plan following the convergence meeting organized by BFAR here wherein Oceana is a partner non-government organization providing science inputs for policy development to protect, rehabilitate and conserve the Visayas Sea.

“The Visayas Sea, as we know, is the third largest fishing ground in the Philippines. It supports half a million fisherfolk pero marami tayong problema regarding illegal fishing, particularly sa paggamit ng illegal fishing gears like bottom trawl and hulbot-hulbot,” said Mongaya.

She also pointed out that there are commercial fishing boats encroaching the municipal waters that are supposed to be reserved for marginalized fishermen based on the apprehension reports of bantay dagat task forces in provinces surrounding the Visayas Sea.

During the enforcement summit, Mongaya said they will empower the members of bantay dagat task forces in five provinces and 33 municipalities on the proper prosecution, while the fiscal, judges and environmental lawyers will be reoriented of the fisheries law in a separate seminar in May.

Provincial agriculturist Ildefonso Toledo said the initial enforcement plan for the Visayas Sea is for the provinces to conduct synchronized fishery law enforcement operations.

The other plans include the following:

1. Implement the criteria on Section 18 of RA 10654, exclusively reserving municipal waters for municipal fishing

3. Eliminate dynamite fishing and other destructive fishing gears

4. Strict implementation of the Visayan Sea closed season FAO 167-3

5. Establishment of a network of Marine Protected Areas, including spawning grounds of sardines and blue swimming crab

6. Regulate fishing gears catching juveniles by ensuring that mesh size being used is more than 3 cm, ban gears that catch more than 50% juveniles and strict issuance of fishing gear license to gears that catch between 25 – 50% juveniles. (Jezza A. Nepomoceno)
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