ALBAY, Philippines – For more than a week now, fishermen in the sleepy coastal village of Catburawan in Ligao City have been hauling bountiful harvests of expensive and high grade tanigue (Spanish mackerel) from the shore.
Local officials called the record catch unprecedented. Barangay Catburawan chief Melquiades “Jun” Bellen credited this to the unified effort of local officials and law enforcers to get rid of illegal fishers in Lagunoy Gulf, particularly in the Burias-Ticao Pass.
“This is manna from the seas and God’s big blessing to us. It’s the product of our relentless campaign against illegal fishing spearheaded by our congressman, Fernando Gonzalez,” Bellen said.
He said that healthy coral reefs are thriving some 1.5 kilometers from the shores of Catburawan. Bellen said the fish harvest from their area has greatly improved over the last few years compared to the time in the past when they barely had enough even just for daily subsistence.
“This is also a season where tanigue emerged. We’re just lucky because they appeared just within our shoreline,” Bellen said with a wide smile.
Albay 3rd District Representative Fernando Gonzalez said the abundant catch in Catburawan is the culmination of years of protection from local communities, specifically the Bantay Dagat Task Force created by the Ligao city government in partnership with the military and the police.
A few years ago, Gonzalez and the Ligao city government, with Philippine Army and then Bicol police regional director Chief Superintendent Victor Deona, strictly enforced an anti-illegal fishing drive in Burias Pass.
Gonzalez and the composite team of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police in Bicol under Deona formed the Bantay Dagat Task Force (BDTF).
The task force regularly conducts sea patrol, which has discouraged big fishing operators from entering the municipal waters of Burias Pass in the Lagunoy Gulf portion of the west coast area in Albay.
Motioning to the day’s rich catch, Gonzalez said: “This is a result of our efforts to eliminate illegal fishing. Without it, this will never happen because big illegal fishermen can have and haul this fish in just an hour. So, we’re happy because our marginalized fishermen are now in abundance.”
“They will no longer compete with bigtime fishers in the high seas just to catch fish. This time, they can easily catch high grade and expensive tanigue just within a few meters from the shoreline in time for theHoly Week celebration,” the lawmaker added.
Ligao City Mayor Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua said the city government has 15 deputy fish wardens and 13 deputized and fully armed members belonging to the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu), who operate from 3 patrol bases in the coastal villages of Catburawan, Maonon, and Cabarian.
Since 2012, the city government spent at least P3 million for anti-illegal fishing drive. Alsua said that the task force also guarded 3 fish sanctuaries and marine reserves in the villages, with an aggregate area of 135 hectares.
The city government also developed a 62-hectare mangrove plantation in Sitio Tambak in Cabarian, where some 400,000 mangrove propagules had been planted since 2008. The local government initiated a coral reef rehabilitation and seagrass protection program in Ligao.
Fishers in the Albay side of the Burias-Ticao Pass had long complained of destructive fishing practices of commercial fishing vessels.
Of the 55 barangays in Ligao City, 3 are coastal villages – Catburawan, Maonon, and Cabarian – with an 11-kilometer coastline.
“Years of continuous efforts to control, all together remove, illegal fishing activities in the coastal of the Burias Pass and the establishment of marine sanctuaries has resulted to the return of bountiful fish catch,” Gonzalez said.
Burias Pass is located between Albay and Masbate provinces.
Gonzalez said that one way of achieving food security in the coastal and marine environment is to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; improve biodiversity of all support ecosystems; and create well-maintained ecosystems that provide more ecological goods and better ecological services. – Rappler.com
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