Up to 40 per cent of Philippines’ 2019 total fish catch sourced from IUU fishing, USAID study reveals

A vessel seized by Philippine authorities for illegal fishing in the waters off Samar province (Photo: BFAR)

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have released the results of a study that quantified illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Philippines, the US Embassy in Manila said in a press release on Thursday, March 10.

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

The report highlights that while the Philippine 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.

According to the report, illegal fishing amounted to 27 to 40 per cent of fish caught in 2019 in the Philippines, which translates to approximately PHP62 billion (US$1.3 billion) annually. Further, at least 30,000 or 30 per cent of municipal vessels remain unregistered, and commercial fishers do not report up to 422,000 tonnes of fish each year.

The statistics show the vast impact IUU fishing has on the Philippines’ marine ecosystem.

BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona said the agency is in the process of developing an IUU fishing index and threat assessment tool, which will be adopted in the country’s 12 fisheries management areas.

Once fully implemented, the tool will provide the BFAR with periodic information needed to identify other ways to encourage voluntary compliance, strategically guide law enforcement operations, and clearly communicate progress in reducing IUU fishing in the country’s waters, Mr Gongona added.

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