OCEANA Philippines, the local unit of the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation, called on the provincial government of Cebu to consider imposing stiffer penalties against illegal fishing activities to boost protection and conservation of its marine and aquatic resources.
Local authorities in Cebu are scoring victories in apprehending the transport and trade of fish illegally caught with dynamite.
However, efforts to curb the exploitation of marine resources only go to waste as violators continue to get away with just a slap on the wrist.
From July to December 2015, the Cebu Provincial Anti-Illegal Fishing Task Force (CPAIFTF) has made eight apprehensions of traders transporting dynamited fish, including stingray and dried starfish.
Marcelo Go, Cebu environmental operation officer and concurrent CPAIFTF head, said the offenders were caught transporting a total of 36 boxes of dynamited sardinella fish species, locally called as “tuloy,” 16 boxes of dynamited assorted fish species, 49 pieces of stingray, and 35 sacks of dried starfish.
“Appropriate cases have already been filed against the offenders for violating Cebu provincial fishery ordinances and the amended Fisheries Code (Republic Act 10654), while the illegally caught fish with a combined value of P322,740 were confiscated,” said Go.
The involved transport vehicles apprehended from July to September 2015 were released to the respective owners by the Cebu Provincial Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Adjudication Board (FARAB) upon payment of the prescribed penalties, ranging from a measly P8,400 to P10,800, Go reported.
However, the respective cases of those apprehended from November 18 to December 10—involving four offenses on the transport of 16 boxes of dynamited assorted fish species and stingray, and selling of stingray at Mandaue public market—are still pending at the FARAB.
“While we laud the efforts of Mar Go and his team, we find the fine imposed as too small, and the LGU [local government unit]is still not implementing the higher penalties under R.A. 10654,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines.
“We will urge the provincial government Cebu to consider imposing stiffer penalties as called for under the amended Fisheries Code or R.A. 10654,” Ramos added.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala signed the rules and regulations of R.A. 10654 on September 22, 2015.
The law prohibits shipping, commercially transporting, offering for sale, selling, importing, exporting, or having custody, control, or possession of illegally-caught fish with the use of explosives or noxious/poisonous substances.
The apprehended shipment will be confiscated, and the violators will pay an administrative fine of P50,000 to P200,000 or five times the value of the fish or species caught, whichever is higher.
Upon conviction by a court of law, offenders will be imprisoned from six months to two years, and fined eight times the value of the species, or P100,000 to P500,000, whichever is higher. Their fish shipment will be confiscated and their registration or license will be suspended or revoked. JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ