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Unmarked vessels sighted near PH reefs

/ 12:35 AM December 21, 2015

SUAL, Pangasinan—Unmarked foreign fishing vessels have been invading the “payaw” (artificial reefs) put up by fishermen from Bolinao town, according to accounts gathered at a forum here on Thursday.

During the forum initiated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), fishermen reported seeing unmarked boats flocking toward their payaw at night, about

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30 nautical miles from the shore of Bolinao.

The vessels use a “super light,” a reference to strong lighting equipment which fishermen place onto their boats to attract fish.

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“Because they (vessels) were so many and they used super light, it looked like there was a city [at sea],” said Vicente Ariesgado, 45, a commercial boat captain from Bolinao.

The vessels had no flags that identified their countries of origin, but these could be either Vietnamese or Chinese because “they looked like the boats we used to see at Scarborough Shoal [in the West Philippine Sea],” the fishermen told the forum.

Foreign fishing vessels which venture out to sea without a flag are classified as those used for illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUUF).

The Philippines is a signatory to an international plan of action adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization against

IUUF.

Local fishermen are allowed to catch fish in privately owned payaw as long as they harvest fish using a hook and line locally known as “kawil.” The BFAR describes the kawil as a sustainable means of catching fish.

But the foreign fishermen use as many as 16 super lights to attract fish which are caught by trawlers.

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Republic Act No. 10654 (the amended Philippine Fisheries Code) prohibits the use of super lights in municipal waters. But the law does not address its use in commercial waters or

15 kilometers from the shore.

The fishermen said they could not compete with the intruders. “They use ships, we only have boats,” Ariesgado said.

Nestor Domenden, BFAR Ilocos director, said the agency had alerted the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard about the presence of 35 to 40 unmarked vessels on the waters off Ilocos Norte province.

“We are addressing the problem,” he said. “The solution won’t be immediate. Maybe it will take months but when we are able to identify the commercial fishing vessels and report them, their countries’ departments on fishery would have to take action against the operators,” he said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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