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Masbate tops provinces in illegal fishing activities

The island province of Masbate topped the provincial ranking for boat lights detected in its municipal waters from May 16-22, 2020, a monitoring group against illegal fishing said.

The light detections that totaled to 320 were presumably from commercial fishing boats illegally operating in municipal waters. The figure represented 19.2 percent of the 1,666 recorded lights country-wide. The 320 lights detection in Masbate represented a 461.4 percent increase from the previous week, where the light counted from the province was only 57.

Palawan and Quezon followed Masbate with 249 and 208 light detections, respectively.

According to Karagatan Patrol (KP), an organization that monitors illegal fishers within municipal waters via a satellite-based device called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), it already informed the respective local government officials of the high numbers of light detections.

KP gleaned these data from maps and charts that represented the distribution of total number of night lights detected per Fisheries Management Area, region, provincial, and municipal.

During the League of Municipalities of the Philippines'(LMP) general assembly held March this year, the mayor of Vinzons, Camarines Norte requested KP’s help in monitoring the town’s coastal water.

"Mayor Eleanor Secundo pleaded if we can help her in addressing this problem where illegal commercial fishing activities swarmed their municipal waters," KP said.

While Vinzons has an active Bantay Dagat team, apparently their efforts may only be good in portions of the municipal waters as shown in our monitoring map, KP said.

Based on VIIRS historical data, the swarming of these commercial fishing activities starts during the month of March up to September. The municipality of Vinzons is top 26 in 2019 VIIRS Boat Detection.

Secundo also sought the assistance of the Maritime Police in Camarines Norte to stop illegal fishing activities in her town.

Under Republic Act (RA) No. 10654 also known as the “Illegal Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Act of 2015,” all fishing boats of commercial scale must have a tracking device on-board.

Poverty pervades among the fisherfolks and their families with the continuous decline in their fish catch. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, fisheries production has been on a downward trend, posting a 12 percent decrease from 2012 to 2018.

Poverty incidence among fisherfolks was 34 percent in 2015, the highest, along with the farmers sectors at 34.3 percent.

Mayor Gerard Montojo, LMP Romblon president, said "We need support in monitoring our municipal waters" via installed tracking device "on commercial fishing boats plying our territorial waters so we can run after them, seize their boats, and be held accountable by the law."

"The implementation of this requirement of law has been delayed for almost four years and it is imperative for the government to fast track its implementation to protect our food base," lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana vice president and head of its Philippine office said.

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