GenSan fisher cries foul over Greenpeace report

MANILA (MindaNews / 5 December) – The owner of a fishing boat which photo was shown in a video footage taken by environmental group Greenpeace has protested over its use in a report on an alleged Filipino fishing vessel that was caught illegally transshipping tuna catch in the high seas.

SLRFI owner Noel Lorenzo said F/B Vergene, as shown in GMA-7 news report, was not the fishing boat Sal 19 alleged to have been boarded by Greenpeace in the international waters when it was caught loading tuna catch to Heng Xing 1, a Cambodian-flagged reefer on November 14.

GMA-7 attributed the video footage to Greenpeace which confirmed that it was the group that supplied the material.

Lorenzo, a member of General Santos City-based Umbrella Fish Landing Association (UFLA), claimed the report cast a bad name to his fishing company, one of the 11 Philippine catcher vessels that has already sailed and began fishing in Pocket 1 High Seas recently opened to Filipino tuna fishers.

UFLA executive director Dino Barrientos however confirmed that Greenpeace also earlier boarded F/B Vergene inside the Pocket 1 High Seas area together with Palauan enforcers.

But Barrientos said F/B Vergene skipper Noel Pepugal was able to produce all the documents required by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

Greenpeace did not find any violation of the guidelines set by the international fishing company, Lorenzo said.

Lorenzo said he is now talking to his lawyers to take the necessary action to correct the Greenpeace report.

Greenpeace Philippines said the way the images were used may have created confusion on the report of illegal transshipment in the nigh seas.

“We have no hand on how the footages were used by GMA-7,” said Mark Dia of Greenpeace Philippines.

The WCPFC is currently holding its five-day regular session at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila where conservation measures are high in its agenda as volume of catches and tuna stocks worldwide continue to show a steady decline.

In 2008, the WCPFC agreed to a three-month ban on tuna fishing using fish aggregating devices (FADs).

The ongoing ban on FAD fishing is from July to September every year when tuna stocks begin migrating towards the Sulu and Sulawesi seas to spawn, according to initial scientific findings.

In 2009, the fishing body further imposed a two-year ban on FAD fishing and purse seine operations in four pockets of High Seas in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

The Philippines is one of the 25 member countries of WCPFC that signed the measure.

The ban took effect in 2010.

In March this year, the WCPFC granted the Philippines exclusive access to Pocket 1, an area of roughly 560,000 square miles east of Indonesia and north of Palau and Papua New Guinea beginning October 1.

The WCPFC however limited Filipino access to Pocket 1 to 36 catcher vessels.  The exclusive fishing right was likewise to run up to February next year only.

Also, WCPFC said only tuna catcher vessels with a load capacity of 250 tons and ice chiller storage purse seiners are to be allowed to operate in the area.

Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez, in a report to the plenary session of the WCPFC last December 3, however said only 11 Philippine-flagged catcher vessels have so far began fishing in the area. (Edwin Espejo / MindaNews contributor)