The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has finally issued the guidelines for the enforcement of Vessel Monitoring Measures (VMM) and installment of Electronic Reporting System (ERS), a move that will intensify the government’s fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
BFAR said yesterday that Agriculture Secretary William Dar has signed Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) no. 266, which will enhance the capacity of the government to monitor fishing operations and enforce laws in Philippine waters.
VMM, which covers the use of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), will be used to track and monitor the position, course, and speed of fishing vessels at any given time for the purpose of management of fisheries and fishing effort and traceability.
The system will use an Automatic Location Communicator (ALC) or a tracking device equipped with a distress alert button, which when activated will automatically locate the vessel and alert authorities during accidents or other emergencies, ensuring safety of fishers at sea.
Based on the new order, BFAR will accredit, verify as fully operational, and certify the tracking devices that will be used as prerequisites for registration or renewal of license.
Aside from this, an ERS will be used to record and transmit catch data including species and volume of fish caught, position of the vessel where the fish are caught, vessel activity, and port of origin and arrival in real time.
The system will improve the country’s catch documentation and seafood traceability.
Data from ERS and VMS can also be used in tracking fishing behavior for scientific research and serve as a basis for more effective fisheries management measures.
Based on the new FAO, vessels weighing 3.1 to less than 30 GT must have a BFAR- approved VMS installed within one year from the effectivity of the FAO.
For vessels weighing 30 GT or more, VMS must be installed immediately as required by FAO 260.
Under Section 119 of Republic Act 10654 or the Amended Fisheries Code, non-compliance to the VMM or violations such as intentionally tampering with, switching off or disabling the VMS may result in administrative or criminal liability.
The set of guidelines for VMM and ERS is a product of public consultations and deliberation by the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC), the country’s highest recommending and advisory body on fisheries policies.
In a separate statement, Oceana and other civil society groups, local governments, and artisanal fisherfolk said the issuance of fishing vessels monitoring rules by BFAR is a “timely and important step to secure the food of our children and the next generation”.
“We welcome the issuance of the guideline for vessel monitoring mechanism that covers all commercial fishing vessels more than 3 gross tons. Consistent with the provisions of Republic Act 10654, and sustainable fisheries management, we believe that this can help curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing especially the encroachment of commercial fishing vessels within the 15-kilometer municipal waters,” said Dinna Umengan, coordinator of the Pangisda Natin Gawin Tama (PANAGAT), an umbrella organization of non-government organizations working with fisherfolk, ocean and environment conservation.
“This is a big win for coastal local government units and fishing communities and a contribution towards the modernization path of the Philippine fisheries industry,” she added.