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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, August 6, 2011
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Moratorium on fishing
in Visayan Sea pushed

BY GILBERT BAYORAN

A five-year moratorium on commercial fishing in the Visayan Sea has been recommended by the Department of Agriculture, which supervises the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, to restore and preserve its marine resources, a report presented at a governors’ meeting in Bacolod yesterday said.

The one million-hectare Visayan Sea, which environmentalists claim has the world’s largest concentration of marine life, is threatened by harmful fishing activities, such as blast and cyanide fishing.

Its marine populations reportedly includes more than 12,000 species of fish, the report said.

BFAR director Asis Perez, who attended a Governors’ Meeting on the Visayan Sea conservation at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City, promised to provide two vessels and unsinkable speedboats for Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Cebu and Masbate, to protect their territorial waters against all forms of illegal fishing.

This is to prevent destructive fishing in the Visayan Sea, Perez said, he said, noting that blast and cyanide fishing methods and overfishing have depleted the Visayan Sea of its marine life and coral.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. stressed the importance of patrol boats to stop illegal fishing, especially by commercial fishing vessels.

Maranon, Iloilo Governor Arthur Tupaz, Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia earlier pledged to use their collective powers and resources to restore and conserve the marine resources of the Visayan Sea.

Lanete, Defensor and Tito Gastardo who represented Cebu Gov. Garcia in the meeting in Bacolod yesterday reiterated their commitment to preserve the Visayan Sea from all forms of destructive methods of fishing.

“It is now the time to do our best against illegal fishing”, Lanete said.

Before their terms end in 2013, they also pledged to take the necessary steps to seek the declaration of the 1 million-hectare Visayan Sea as a United Nations World Heritage Site for its unparalleled marine wealth, which they called the heart of marine biodiversity on earth in their declaration of commitment.

During the Visayan Sea summit in Cebu on March 30, the recommended actions of participants also included the giving of tasking to BFAR to determine the maximum sustainable yield of the Visayan Sea, monitoring and spot inspections of vessels, as well as training and deputation of fish examiners, aside from a five-year moratorium on commercial fishing in the area.

Perez said he will dispatch a BFAR vessel in the Visayan Sea to study its maximum sustainable yield, without endangering population of the fish. At the same time, he proposes a that police and port personnel should be also included in the training on detection and examination of fish caught in blast fishing.

Marañon noted that about 70 percent of the corals in the Visayan Sea have been destroyed by illegal fishing. * GPB

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