BFAR 7 'lacks' personnel to police illegal fishing

BFAR 7 'lacks' personnel to police illegal fishing
SunStar Local News

DYNAMITE fishing is still present in some waters off the coast of Cebu and Bohol, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) 7 lacks personnel to police illegal fishers, according to an official.

BFAR 7 agriculturist Alberto Simbajon divulged on Wednesday, July 10, 2024, the challenges that the agency faces in curbing illegal fishing in the region that include lack of manpower and occasional information leaks during law enforcement operations.

Simbajon, in an interview with “Beyond the Headlines,” SunStar Cebu’s online news and commentary program, on Wednesday, emphasized the importance of a collaborative approach with local government units (LGUs) through their Bantay Dagat, the Maritime Police Enforcement Unit and other law enforcement agencies in combating illegal fishing.

In Central Visayas, Simbajon said BFAR 7 still receives reports of illegal fishing practices, including the intrusion of commercial fishing vessels into municipal waters, the use of Danish seine methods and their modifications and dynamite fishing.

Dynamite fishing

Simbajon said there are still reports of dynamite fishing in some island and islet barangays in Lapu-Lapu City and the municipalities of Cordova and Bantayan Island, as well as in Bohol.

However, he noted that the incidence of dynamite fishing in Bantayan Island has significantly decreased in recent years due to constant apprehension and the support of social programs and interventions, such as livelihood assistance from the LGUs and other relevant government agencies.

Simbajon added that the agency conducts regular awareness campaigns on the impact of dynamite fishing on the ecosystem and coordinates with other law enforcement agencies for anti-illegal fishing operations across the region.

In Cebu City, Simbajon acknowledged reports of the Danish seine fishing method, locally known as “liba-liba” or “hulbot-hulbot,” still being used in the city’s municipal waters.

Last Monday, July 8, Karlon Rama, Cebu City Bantay Dagat director, told SunStar Cebu that “liba-liba” has been observed in the city’s municipal waters, which he attributed to the presence of juvenile mangsi or goldstripe sardinella (a kind of sardine) in recent months.

Under Fisheries Administrative Order 246-1, Danish seine and its alterations are banned in the country due to their damaging impact on the seabed, including coral reefs.

Violators may face both administrative and criminal charges, with fines up to P2 million and/or imprisonment of two to 10 years.

Last April, Simbajon said three violators were apprehended by the Maritime Police for illegal fishing in Cebu City’s waters.

BFAR 7 assisted in certifying the violators’ fishing gear as illegal. He added that these violators came from outside Cebu City.

Despite the rapid industrialization of the city, it still has fishing grounds, including patches of coral reefs along the coastline near the South Road Properties. BFAR 7 supports the City’s plan to declare the area a marine protected area.

Commercial fishing

He said BFAR 7 has only eight law enforcement agents. During anti-illegal fishing operations, there have been instances of intelligence reports being leaked, allowing violators on board fishing vessels, with a capacity of more than three tons of catch, to evade apprehension while at sea. These vessels are considered commercial in scale and must be registered with BFAR, including their fishing gear.

Simbajon explained that municipal waters extend from the shoreline to 15 kilometers, over which LGUs have territorial jurisdiction.

In Central Visayas, commercial fishing vessels can fish in deeper waters, including the Visayan Sea and Bohol Strait. / EHP

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