AUTHORITIES seized in Barangay Poblacion, Danao City yesterday morning eight boxes of fish believed to be caught using dynamite. The Cebu Provincial Anti-Illegal Fishing Task Force was not able to arrest the owners since they refused to come forward, said former Provincial Board member Jose Mari Gastardo in a phone interview. This, as the Bisayas Alliance of Fisherfolks and Operators for Reform Inc. (Bafor) supports the proposed amendments of Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code. This is to allow them to operate in seawaters seven or more fathoms deep regardless of distance from the shoreline. In their position paper sent to Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, chair of the House committee on fisheries and aquaculture, Bafor recommended an amendment of Section 90 of RA 8550 to be consistent with two provisions of the same law, Section 26 and Section 4. In Section 26, large commercial fishing vessels are allowed to operate in Philippine waters seven or more fathoms deep. But in Section 4, commercial fishing vessels are not allowed in municipal waters 15 kms. from the coastline, even if these are seven fathoms deep. Gastardo, the Capitol’s consultant against illegal fishing, said the task force was conducting a “routine checkpoint” when they discovered the dynamited fish. SPO2 Matias Galo of Danao City Police Station said the task force started their checkpoint near the fishport around 11 a.m. Dynamite fishing is prohibited under Section 12 of Republic Act 4003, or the Fisheries Act. “The use of dynamite or other explosives for the stupefying, disabling, killing or taking of fish or other aquatic animals, or under water for any purpose except in the execution of bona fide engineering work and the destruction of wrecks or obstructions to navigation; or the gathering by any means of the fishes or other aquatic animals stupefied, disabled or killed by the action of dynamite or other explosives shall be unlawful,” it says. Punishment The law punishes the violators with a fine ranging from P1,500 to P5,000, and by imprisonment for one year and six months to five years. The violators’ explosives, boats and other apparatus will also be confiscated, the law says. Rep. Pablo Garcia (Cebu 2nd district) said he is pushing to amend the fishing law by allowing commercial fishers to operate within the 15-km. radius as long as it is at least seven fathoms. Garcia said that while the law prohibits commercial fishing within the 15-km. radius, marginal fishermen are not operating at seven fathoms deep. “We should allow commercial fishing in seven fathoms deep or more even if it is within the kilometer radius because if we rely on marginal fishing, since time will come that our wet market will run out of fish as the demand for food is increasing due also to the increasing population,” Garcia said. Salimbangon also favors allowing commercial fishing within the seawaters declared as municipal waters, provided the area is seven fathoms deep or more. He said because of the prohibition of commercial fishing within the 15-km. radius, even if the area is seven fathoms deep or more, some municipal officials collect as much as P100,000 a month from commercial fishers who operate within the municipal seawaters. Bafor president Leonida Jusay submitted their position paper that also includes transferring the registration of fishing vessels from the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). They said commercial fishing vessel registration is done by Marina, which has become a cumbersome and expensive process. Registration through Bfar will eliminate red tape and unnecessary cost on the part of the commercial fishing operators, and will encourage illegal commercial fishing operators to register, thus increasing government revenues. Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 25, 2011.