MASBATE CITY – The Masbate provincial prosecutor’s office based here on Tuesday said unless stiffer penalties are provided, the campaign of the local government units (LGUs) to curb the rampant illegal fishing in their territorial waters will continue to be a failure.
Provincial prosecutor Jeremias Mapula made this observation in the wake of an order issued by Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete tasking the Philippine National Police (PNP) to end the illegal activities at the province’s fishing grounds “as soon as possible.”
The only bases for the police to act against illegal fishing activities is Republic Act 8550 or the Fishery Code of the Philippines which appears to be “favorable” to operators of large fishing vessels that have been encroaching on municipal waters at the expense of marginal fishermen that LGUs want to protect, Mapula said.
He said the same law metes out only fines of P2,000 to P20,000 against fishing boat operators and imprisonment of only two and a half years to boat captains or master fishermen of the vessels caught fishing using active gears.
“For operators of big fishing vessels, these fines are very small compared to what they are raking from the sea in just one illegal fishing outing so they can easily get away from the offense once caught while the ship captains or master fishermen on the other hand can readily plea guilty to the offense and apply for probation to escape imprisonment,” Mapula said.
These kind of penalties do not deter illegal fishing particularly by operators of large fishing vessels coming from neighboring coastal provinces and have been devastating the fishing grounds of Masbate since several decades ago right under the noses of the police and local authorities, he lamented.
“The campaign against illegal fishing in municipal waters for the protection of the marine environment can only be gain ground once RA 8550 is amended and provided with stiffer penalties and forfeiture of fishing vessels in favor of the LGUs,” the provincial prosecutor added. (PNA)