Bataan fishermen call for end to fish holiday

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MARIVELES, Bataan: The Sisiman Fishing Operators Association, Inc. (SFOAI) called on government and commercial fishermen who oppose the amendments to the Fishries Code to come to terms to put a stop to fish holidays.

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“Patuloy ang aming pangingisda subalit nagkaka-problema kapag natapat ang dating ng mga mangingisda sa fish holiday. Sa dalawang araw na hindi nakapagpabulong at nabenta ang isda, tungo ito sa pagkabulok [We continue to catch fish but we have encountered problems during the fish holiday. We were not able to sell fish for two days (because of the fish holiday) and because of this our fish were spoiled],” SFOAI president Dalisay Cruz said.

Cruz underscored that the group has 700 members with 37 fishing boats in Sisiman, a fishing village in Mariveles town and most of the big fishing vessels sell their catch in Navotas where a two-day fish holiday was declared.

She voiced hope that the government would do something to prevent fishermen from organizing protest actions in the future.

On the other hand, international conservation group Oceana welcomed the signing of the new implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10654 or amended Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

On Wednesday, amid protests by various fishers group, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala signed the IRR for the amended law—one week after the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) completed its work.

“This is a positive development in trying to save what is left of Philippine fisheries,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, vice president for Oceana Philippines.

“We hope that the BFAR continues with its holistic approach in helping our fisheries recover,” Ramos added.

The new rules require a satellite-based tracking system, called a vessel monitoring system, for all commercial fishing boats weighing 30 tons and up within the next four years.

The rules also stipulate that within one year, the BFAR shall determine the appropriate Vessel Monitoring Measures for tracking commercial vessels below 3.1 to 30 gross tons.

“The provision on vessel monitoring is definitely a step in the right direction, as it can help ensure that commercial vessels are fishing in their designated areas,” Ramos said.

Ramos said there is a need to monitor the enforcement of the amended law, especially in prioritizing access for municipal fishers.

She added that the new rules may not be perfect, but they provide stronger mechanisms and remedies for authorities and citizens’ hope for long-term sustainable fisheries.

BFAR national director Asis Perez earlier said that over the years, the problem of overfishing continues to haunt the Philippine fishery sector.

“Ten out of 13 of the country’s fishing grounds have already shown signs of overfishing,” Perez said, citing a study by the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP).

“The amended Fisheries Code intends to stop all forms of unsustainable resource use. Among its salient features is the higher penalties to deter, prevent and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities,” he added.

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