The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will enforce a three-month ban on the use of fish aggregating devices (FAD) to curb overfishing as part of its commitment to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s tuna conservation initiative.
BFAR National Director Asis Perez said that the ban on FADs, locally known as “payaos,” will be enforced from July to September this year and will cover all purse seine and ring net vessels operating in the high seas.
The use of fish aggregating devices has been partly blamed for the decline in tuna catch in some areas at certain times of the year.
“The prohibition of setting FADs is in line with WCFPC’s conservation and management measures for bigeye, yellowfin, and skipjack tuna,” Perez said.
In line with the order, he said that the agency will conduct annual inspection and marking of purse seine and ring net fishing gears to ensure compliance with the reduced net depth – around 115 fathoms – established under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 236.
Perez also said that all catch vessels will be required to carry on board accredited monitors and fisheries observers, who are to gather data and recommend further improvements during the closure period.
Fishing companies and individuals caught using unauthorized nets during the FAD closure period would face penalties – including fines of P100,000 to P300,000 for small-scale commercial fishing, P400,000 to P700,000 for medium-scale commercial fishers, and P800,000 to P1 million for large-scale operators.
Fishing companies also face confiscation of catch and cancellation of their permits to operate in the high seas.
During the 10th Regular Session of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of highly Migratory Fish Stocks, the WCPFC approved the Philippines’ request for an extension for the access to the high seas (in areas classified as pocket 1).
WCPFC is a regional fisheries management organization that addresses problems in the management of high seas fisheries, or fishing in the open seas.
This continued fishing access is a result of the Philippines’ commitment to ensuring long-term sustainability of highly migratory fish stocks in line with rights under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and the WCPFC Convention, and the country’s adherence to progressive implementation of the commission’s management measures.
For two years now, the Philippines is the only country allowed to go fishing in the high seas pocket 1 following a series of proposals set before the WCPFC.