A THREE-HECTARE coastal area in Barangay Bayabas, Cagayan de Oro City, has been declared and opened as a Marine and Fish Sanctuary, the very first in the city, according to an Agricultural Productivity Office (APO) fishery coordinator.

Bebot Pimentel, the fishery coordinator of the Fishery Division of APO, said out of the 11 coastal area barangays in Cagayan de Oro City, Barangay Bayabas was the first to have its marine sanctuary after a marine group from Xavier University were able to discover corals which can only be seen in the area.

"Pag mag-identify tayo ng marine protected area, tatlo ang titingnan: meron silang corals, merong seagrass at tsaka merong isda (To identify a marine protected area, it should have corals, seagrass and fishes)," Pimentel said.

Pimentel said the corals are important in a fish sanctuary as corals are needed by the fishes during its spooning, where fishes lay their eggs in corals.

Now a marine and fish sanctuary, a barangay ordinance has been implemented wherein fishing is illegal within the 3-hectare area and the 15-meter distance from the border, Pimentel said.

According to the Republic Act 8550 or The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 under Section 90, "it shall be unlawful to engage in fishing in municipal waters and in all bays as well as other fishery management areas using active fishing gears."

An imprisonment from two to six years and a fine of P2,000 to P20,000 will be imposed to the boat captain an master fisherman of the vessels that will violate.

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno expressed his thanks to Barangay Bayabas Chairman Eddie Abrogar and the Barangay Council for their efforts to protect the marine life.

"Growth is already occuring, and importante lang mahibalo kita mo-adjust ug dili nato kalimtan ang pagprotiher sa kinaiyahan (the important thing is we know how to adjust and we should not forget to protect nature)," Moreno said.