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VARIOUS stakeholders in Tañon Strait vowed to strengthen collaboration to combat illegal fishing and protect one of the country’s important fishing grounds in the Visayas.
The Tañon Strait is an important fishing ground down south. About 288,000 small-scale fishers rely on the bounty of Tañon, which is part of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS).
The area is supposed to be exclusive fishing grounds for municipal fishers, but the competition from commercial fishers who illegally enter the strait, plus destructive fishing methods used by small-scale fishers, have led to an overall decline in productivity, said Oceana Philippines, a conservation and advocacy group.
In a joint statement, Oceana said that from an average of 5 kilos of fish per trip, yields have plummeted to 2 kilos—and many fishing households earn less than P100 daily, prompting various stakeholders to come together to put in place a management framework to sustainably manage their coastal and marine resources.
“Tañon Strait is an important traditional source of fish for millions of Filipinos. Doing the right thing for Tañon paves the way for the sustainable use and management of our fisheries to address food security concerns,” Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said.
“No Filipino should go hungry in this native land. I believe we can achieve this if we protect our coastal and marine resources,” Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon said.
Declared a protected area in 1998, Tañon Strait is a 161-kilometer long channel separating the Islands of Cebu and Negros.
It is famous not only for being a rich fishing area, but as a tourist destination.
In the channel lies popular tourist sites, such as Bantayan Isle, Malapascua, Moalboal, the Mantalip Sandbar and Bais, where whales and dolphins abound.
Encompassing three provinces, 42 coastal towns and cities, plus nearly 300 barangays, overlapping mandates have led to largely inconsistent policies in conserving the area. Since 2015 the TSPS’s Protected Area Management Board and its executive committee worked hand-in-hand with Site Management Units, the Protected Area Office, plus various stakeholders from the government, private sector and civil society for improved conservation measures.
They are now guided by an approved management plan and enforcement plan for the sustainable management of the Tañon Strait.
Last week the Department of Environment and Natural Resources convened the second Enforcement Summit, in partnership with Oceana, in Cebu City during which they agreed to strengthen the collaboration for the protection of Tañon.
Under the current setup, government agencies and local governments worked closely with nonprofit organizations and community champions to review the state of enforcement in Tañon over the past year while identifying solutions to current challenges, especially illegal and destructive fishing.
Despite its status as a protected seascape, Tañon Strait is besieged by illegal activities, destroying its ecological integrity and depriving fishermen of their rightful catch.
“Only through our continued strong collaboration can the fisheries of the Tañon Strait continue to thrive,” Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director and Fisheries Undersecretary Eduardo B. Gongona said.
Gongona pledged more patrol vessels in the area to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey commissioned by Oceana found that illegal and destructive fishing is the most seriously perceived threat to the oceans, next to pollution.
Police Regional Office 7 Director Chief Superintendent Jose Mario Espino said 656 illegal fishers were arrested while over 2,000 explosives were seized from January to November this year alone.
“The fight against illegal fishing is high on the priority list of the Philippine National Police,” he said.
Oceana and its allies reiterated the need for stronger law enforcement to guard the northern and southern entrances of the Tañon Strait while requiring all vessels to comply with the legal directive to install Vessel Monitoring Measures for fishing transparency and safety-at-sea.
Vessel monitoring allows for land-based monitoring of all vessels, ensuring they stay in designated fishing zones while acting as a safeguard in case boats run into accidents.
“We still have a long way to go but we need to continue finding ways to improve our enforcement efforts. We shall continue to work together as a team, where everyone has a stake not just to benefit responsibly from our natural resources but to manage it such that our future generations will have sustainable coastal and marine resources,” Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III added.
TSPS Park Superintendent Prospero Lendio said P1 million of its P8.7-million budget for 2018 has been set aside for seaborne patrols and enforcement activities.