Oceana: Transparency at Sea through Vessel Monitoring Technology Protects Lives and Fisheries

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    “The June 9 sinking of a Philippine fishing vessel in the Recto Bank by Chinese fishing boat should drive us to put in place mechanisms for the safety of our people and tracking behavior of fishing vessels within and even outside our territorial waters.  Our fisheries laws are clear on requiring tracking device for commercial fishing vessels, but if we continue to ignore its importance in deterring illegal fishing and possible human rights abuses, and take the business-as-usual mindset, our own people will face the grave consequences.”

    This was the statement of Oceana as the international advocacy group urges the government to implement the vessel monitoring system for all commercial fishing vessels, as required in the amended Fisheries Code.

    “We need to be firm in ensuring transparency and accountability in ocean governance if we are to eradicate the continuing plunder on our oceans and assault on our honor and integrity as a nation, apart from pushing us on the edge on the issue of food security,” explained Oceana Vice President, Gloria Estenzo Ramos.

    The incident came on the heels of the release of an investigative report by Oceana “demonstrating the power of technology to shine a light on possible illegal fishing and human rights abuses at sea.” The report concluded that “Poor oversight, weak regulations and lack of transparency make commercial fishing a vulnerable sector for an illicit activity like IUU fishing, human trafficking, and forced labor.”

    To deter and stop illegal fishing in the Philippines, Oceana, with the artisanal fisherfolk and civil society partners, is in the forefront of the campaign to mainstream the use of vessel monitoring for all commercial fishing vessels, as required by RA 10654 which amended the Fisheries Code in 2015. This involves the installation of a monitoring device that transmits location, speed, and tracks in real time, either through satellite or non-satellite-based mechanism in every fishing boat over 3 gross tons

    “The incident in the Recto Bank may not be the last if we will continue to ignore the safeguards that legally should be in place to protect our ocean and our people,” Ramos said.

    According to Ramos, strengthening of the monitoring and surveillance system is much-needed coupled with science-based and participatory decision-making in the newly designated 12 fisheries management areas in the country. The sinking of the vessel happened within Fisheries Management Area 5.

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