2 towns improve ranking in illegal fishing campaign

Two towns in the Bicol region have improved their rankings among local government units with detections of possible illegal fishers within their municipal waters via infrared imaging.

These are the municipalities of Ragay in Camarines Sur and Paracale in Camarines Norte.

In Ragay town, 115 night lights were detected in the first quarter of the year compared to the 402 last year for the same quarter. This makes an improvement in the town’s ranking from 28th to 32nd.

Likewise, the town of Paracale recorded an improvement in its ranking from 27th to 55th.

Karagatan Patrol (KP), an online platform for reporting of illegal fishing in the country, still alerted the respective mayors of the said towns of these detections via a letter.

But improved ranking simply means less detection. Not seeing them doesn’t mean they are not there. More importantly to impress upon them that there is continuing effort to assist local government units (LGU) detect potential illegal activities at sea that may be beyond their capacity to detect. Its like giving them a telescope, KP said.

The group uses Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) to detect night lights presumably coming from commercial fishing boats that intrude inside municipal waters.

In April this year, KP recorded a 12 percent decrease in detected night lights from 4,487 compared to 5,127 total detection in April 2019.

Several seaborne operations were conducted all throughout April 2020 following KP’s alert to LGU of the detections.

From Masbate, Cavite, Iloilo, Leyte, Sarangani, and Antique, among others, crews of commercial vessels and small fishers were apprehended and charged with cases for fishing violations.

In March this year, Masbate ranked first with 72 presumably fishing vessels detected, which is twice the 37 average weekly detection in the same month last year.

Aside from payola (bribe), KP also wants to raise awareness about practices that deter “areglo”, or an intervention or compromise that will free a violator from sanctions or reduce culpability in exchange for a “gift” like cash.

“It can happen at any stage of field enforcement. In the case of illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters, it occurs at pre-boarding, boarding and post boarding stages,” KP said.

Among them is to conduct joint operations with another unit, or have the operation publicized through social media if signal allows. “The key is to make noise during boarding,” the group said.

The group also encouraged the public to report any other modus of areglo, for it can help law enforcement officers and members to continue enforcing fishery laws, even if they get harassed, reassigned, or cited with trumped-up charges.