By Joseph John J. Perez
LEGAZPI CITY, 04Oct2013 – Anchoring on the message of President Benigno Aquino III’s during the State of the Nation Address on the “need to rest our seas,” the Greenpeace Southeast Asia led different civic society organizations and stakeholders in Bicol region in the call for action to curb illegal commercial fishing activities in the region, especially in the Burias-Ticao Pass in Masbate province.
One with the Greenpeace are the Bicol Consortium for Development Initiatives (BCDI), Lingap Para sa Kalusugan ng Sambayanan (LIKAS), Social Action Center of the Diocese of Legazpi (SAC Legazpi) and Pio Duran Fishers Association .
In the same press statement release to the media during an interfacing today here, the group proposed that amnesty should not be given to illegal commercial fishing vessels and be penalized based on national laws and local ordinances on fisheries.
“Illegal commercial fishing activities in Burias-Ticao Pass is stealing the future of Bicol and will definitely undermine any marine based development initiatives in the region,” Joji Rayel-Orbase of SAC-Legazpi noted.
“Bicol currently hosts two heavily exploited fishing grounds such as Sorsogon Bay and Lagonoy Gulf and will definitely expand if illegal commercial and destructive fishing will continue plying the seas of Bicol,” Sally Pernito of LIKAS observed.
“The BFAR’s (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) Philippine Fisheries Profile of 2010 showed that each of the 387 commercial fishing vessels that operate in Bicol takes close to 200 metric tons per annum, as opposed to the mere 2.6 metric tons caught by 54,715 municipal fishing vessels,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia Ocean Campaigner Vince Cinches also revealed.
The group also called to form stronger composite team composed of local government units (LGUs), national government agencies and local stakeholders to patrol Burias-Ticao Pass and the rest of Bicol seas to deter illegal commercial and destructive fishing activities.
The same press statement underlined that overlapping jurisdiction of LGUs on Bicol seas should be a tool against illegal and overfishing and should not be used as an excuse to protect Bicol seas especially in the Burias-Ticao Pass. The interconnectedness of ecosystems and not political territories should be used to urgently address the problem of illegal fishing, the statement further said.
Despite existing initiatives by different government units and agencies against illegal fishing, there has been qualitatively unchanged condition that resulted to high poverty incidence in the area and a very degraded unproductive marine ecosystem, the statement added.
“If only the laws against illegal fishing are strictly enforced, then it will create a big difference,” Pernito said . (PIA)