GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 February) – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) deployed four more patrol boats over the weekend along the critical Sarangani Bay to reinforce its ongoing operations against illegal fishing activities in the area.
Ambutong Pautong, assistant director of BFAR Region 12, said they assigned the new patrol boats to secure the seas off four coastal municipalities of Sarangani province against incursions by commercial fishing boats and other illegal fishing activities.
The patrol boats will be utilized for the enforcement of various fishery laws and other activities related to the protection and conservation of the Sarangani Bay’s biodiversity, he said.
The fishery official said the deployment of the patrol boats was based on a memorandum of agreement signed by BFAR with the local governments of Maasim, Glan, Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani.
Under the agreement, BFAR tapped the four local government units (LGUs) to assist in its campaign against illegal fishing along the Sarangani Bay, which is a declared protected seascape.
The LGUs were tasked to operate and maintain the four patrol boats, which were made of 135-horse power speed boats.
A BFAR report said each patrol boat costs about P1.9 million.
Pautong said they turned over the patrol boats following the completion last Friday of the three-day training on familiarization and maintenance of the units for selected employees of the recipient local governments.
The training was facilitated by BFAR personnel led by its national marine fisheries head Alma Dickson.
BFAR and the provincial government of Sarangani earlier intensified its monitoring against illegal fishing activities along the Sarangani Bay due to the reported operations of some commercial fishing boats in portion of its tuna-rich waters.
In late November, around 20 tons of dead skipjack tuna were washed into the shores of Maasim town after they were dumped by small commercial fishing boats that utilize the likom method or net fishing.
The likom fishing boats reportedly overfished and were forced to dump some of their catches along the bay due to their limited capacity.
Under Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code, commercial fishing boats were barred from operating within the 15-kilometer municipal waters.
Last year, a significant portion of the critical Bacud Reef off Kiamba town was destroyed after a foreign cargo vessel ran aground in the area for about five weeks.
The vessel’s owners agreed in November to a settlement of P20 million with the local government of Sarangani after it was found liable by the Philippine Coast Guard’s Special Board of Marine Inquiry for the damages on the reef. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)