Up to 40 percent of the fish caught and distributed in the Philippines in 2019 came from illegal fishing, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) report showed.


On March 9, USAID, together with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), released the results of a study that quantified illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Philippines.   

According to the report, illegal fishing amounted to 27 to 40 percent of fish caught in 2019 in the Philippines, which translates to approximately P62 billion (US$1.3 billion) in value annually.  

Moreover, at least 30,000 or 30 percent of municipal vessels remain unregistered, and commercial fishers do not report up to 422,000 metric tons of fish each year.

These statistics show the vast impact IUU fishing has on the Philippines’ marine ecosystem, USAID said.

IUU fishing ranges from small-scale, unlawful domestic fishing to more complex operations carried out by industrial fishing fleets. It is by nature complex and clandestine, which means data are hard to come by and substantiate.

The report summarizes findings from a survey and a consensus-building workshop conducted in September 2020 by BFAR, USAID, Rare Philippines, the University of the Philippines (UP) Marine Science Institute, and the UP School of Statistics.   

During the workshop, more than 100 experts and practitioners estimated the quantity and value of illegal and unreported fish catch in the Philippines and discussed the local context of unregulated fishing.

In the end, the report highlighted that while the government has invested significant resources in the campaign against illegal fishing, its operational assets have to be augmented to curb the country’s huge economic losses from destructive and unsustainable fishing practices.  

The report also noted that fisher compliance with fisheries laws and regulations requires a strong, responsive governance structure and that reducing IUU fishing is a shared responsibility that requires a whole-of-society approach guided by science.

“Addressing IUU fishing remains an important Philippine government priority. USAID has worked with BFAR for over three decades to promote sustainable fisheries.  And we are pleased that this report will further strengthen government efforts to help prevent IUU here in one of the world’s most biodiverse marine sanctuaries,” said Lawrence Hardy II, Mission Director of USAID Philippines.

BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona, for his part, said his agency’s “strong resolve” to prevent and put an end to IUU fishing in Philippine waters will not waiver, especially now that the agency is gaining momentum technology-wise.

“With the use of science and data, we are in the process of developing an IUU Fishing Index and Threat Assessment Tool, which will be adopted in the 12 Fisheries Management Areas,” Gongona said.

He further said that once fully implemented, this tool will provide BFAR with periodic information needed to identify other ways to encourage voluntary compliance, strategically guide law enforcement operations, and clearly communicate our progress in reducing IUU fishing in the Philippines.

In September last year, Business Bulletin talked with USAID and professors from the University of the Philippines (UP) regarding the threat of IUU to Philippine fisheries and how there is still no way to measure its impact on government revenues.  

“The aim of the amended fisheries code is to curb this [IUU], but we don’t have metrics yet to measure how we are doing… If you don’t know how much is being taken, you are assuming you have more fish in the ocean but it is unreported. The unregulated, on the other hand, is not necessarily illegal but they should be closely monitored because they might become a threat to the sustainability of our fisheries,” Rollan Geronimo, IUU Fishing Specialist for USAID Fish Right Project, said. 

The rough estimate is that the Philippines is losing $101.8 billion or nearly P5 trillion every year due to IUU, based on a study made by Rhodora Azanza, professor emeritus at the Marine Science Institute of UP. 

This includes $99.2 billion losses due to blast fishing, $189 million due to overfishing, $1.2 billion due to poaching, and $1.14 billion to post-harvest losses.

This is enough to feed around 281 million Filipinos for an entire year, according to USAID.

Erniel Barrios, professor at UP School of Statistics, said that what the country has right now in terms of fish catch data collection are only the number of fishing vessels registered at BFAR as well as the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) data on fish output, which is only based on what is being reported at fish landing centers.

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/03/10/40-of-fish-caught-in-ph-comes-from-illegal-fishing-usaid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=40-of-fish-caught-in-ph-comes-from-illegal-fishing-usaid)