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5 things to know about the

amended PH fisheries
code
'The country's fisheries code now has more teeth and the necessary mechanisms to
curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing'

Vince Cinches
Published 2:17 PM, September 16, 2015
Updated 2:17 PM, September 16, 2015

For more than 3 years now, Greenpeace Philippines, together with


its allies and supporters from the fishing industry, has been campaigning long and hard
to end illegal and destructive fishing that has long plagued Philippine seas.

In 2014, the group delivered a Roadmap to Recovery to President Aquino, a proposal to


help reverse the deteriorating condition of the countrys marine resources, to safeguard
the health of our oceans, to secure the livelihood of coastal communities, and ultimately,
to ensure national food security.

The roadmap includes recommendations from various stakeholders and reflects some
of the long standing demands of municipal fishers, sustainable fisheries industry
players, coastal and marine non-government organizations, and scientific organizations
working to end overfishing.

Thankfully, the recommendations were well-received by the Bureau of Fisheries and


Aquatic Resources and by other relevant agencies.

Just recently, the Aquino government amended the Fisheries Code of the Philippines
(RA 8550). The law now has more teeth and the necessary mechanisms to curb illegal,
unreported and unregulated fishing, as mandated by the European Union (EU) which
plays a key role in the fisheries market.
In September 2015, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will officially sign RA 10654, or
the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Fisheries Code, now titled as An Act to
Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing. The move
has been strongly anticipated by various sectors, while some commercial fishers
continue to protest against the IRRs restrictive and inhumane rules and policies.

As seatizens and stakeholders of the environment, most especially those who love
seafood, here are 5 things that you need to know about RA 10654 or the amended
Fisheries Code:

1. There are too many boats out at sea.

Photo from Shutterstock.

The adage plenty of fish in the sea no longer holds true. The worlds oceans are
running out of fish due to unsustainable, and at times illegal, fishing practices triggered
by a high demand for seafood.

Filipino scientists have said that we already reached the maximum sustainable yield of
our seas back in the 80s, prompting fisherfolk organizations and government agencies
to declare that 10 out of 13 of the countrys fishing grounds have been severely
overfished or have now been depleted. Under RA 10654, there will now be harvest
control mechanisms to limit fishing efforts based on the health of fishing grounds.

2. Somethings fishy about todays seafood.


Photo from Shutterstock.

Chances are, the fish on your plate was most likely caught illegally.

Out at sea, there are a lot of commercial fishers with big boats that can haul
hundreds of tons of fish at a time that are notorious for fishing in municipal waters, or
areas exclusive to small-scale fisherfolk. For decades, these commercial fishers have
been fishing illegally, edging out fishermen who simply cant compete.

A single commercial fishing operation can impact the livelihood of 65 small municipal
fishers. These commercial fishers simply sell their haul to the market, passing it off as
legally-caught fish, robbing fishermen of their potential income. This is why fishermen
remain one of the poorest sectors of society.

Now, there is a way to stop this highway robbery happening at sea. Under RA 10654,
there will now be a vessel monitoring system that will tell authorities when and where
exactly boats are fishing.

3. Saved by the yellow card.

Photo from Shutterstock.

In 2014, the EU issued a yellow card warning to the Philippines after decades of
rampant illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing happening in Philippine waters.
This means the EU is prompting the Aquino government to comply and amend our
fisheries law before trade sanctions were imposed.

Just like in football, if countries do not comply with international fisheries standards, the
EU can issue them a red card, as they have done to countries like Cambodia and Sri
Lanka. A red card for the Philippines would have resulted to a loss of P9.4 billion worth
of Philippine fisheries export, certainly a huge dent to the economy.

4. Penalties are no longer a slap on the wrist.


Photo from Shutterstock.

One of the reasons why illegal and unsustainable fishing flourished is because the
government did not impose tougher penalties to those who did not follow Philippine
fisheries laws.

For example, a fisherman caught doing dynamite fishing only had to pay a fine of
P5,000. Even commercial fishers, if caught and apprehended for fishing illegally, only
had to pay a few thousand practically peanuts in this multi-million peso industry.

RA 10654 makes it loud and clear that illegal fishers will be made to pay a lot more to
the tune of millions for plundering our seas and destroying marine ecosystems which
may take decades to recover.

5. Saving sharks and dolphins

In the hunt for more fish, many commercial fishers resort to unsustainable fishing
practices like using big purse seine nets or fish aggregating devices which lure fish and
other sea creatures like sharks, dolphins and even turtles. This is why sharks and
dolphins end up being sold in markets, adding to the illegal trade of endangered
species.

Under RA 10654, it is now unlawful to fish or take, catch, gather, sell, purchase,
possess, transport, export, forward or ship out aquatic species listed by the Convention
on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, or those
categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources as threatened, or those marine and aquatic species determined by the DA
as such.

Fundamental changes need to be made in the way our oceans are managed from the
top down. We need a healthy and thriving marine environment for our sustenance to
safeguard peoples livelihood, and to ensure that we continue to have fish on our plate.

We need seatizens support to uphold the gains of this new and revitalized Fisheries
Code of the Philippines before it is too late. Rappler.com