By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY — A group advocating the protection of the seas’ resources said there is a need to prosecute more illegal fishers caught in the Visayan Sea, one of the country’s richest fishing grounds.
“Our courts also need to prioritize these to further deter illegal fishing,” said Mar Guidote, director for government relations of Oceana Philippines.
Oceana has been working with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in training judges and prosecutors from the islands of Panay, Negros and Cebu to handle fisheries cases.
“Violations of fisheries laws do not get enough attention. Among the criminal cases in court, it is often relegated,” Guidote told Manila Bulletin.
Guidote said the courts need to better understand the consequences of illegal fishing, which he said had previously depleted the Visayan Sea and impacted on both on food security and fishing livelihood.
The group wants fishing violators prosecuted in courts. At present, BFAR only has adjudication boards that handle administrative cases with affordable penalties.
“These violators must also be criminally charged. Otherwise, they will keep repeating the same offenses,” Guidote noted.
But BFAR Regional Director Remia Aparri said only minor cases are handled by the adjudication board.
Aparri said that major violations such as dynamite fishing and hulbot-hulbot (Danish seine) fishing are automatically brought to the courts for criminal prosecution.