Strong monitoring system to ensure marine wealth protection cited

by Ellalyn De Vera
July 24, 2016

A strong vessel monitoring system to track fishing activities was cited yesterday as needed to protect the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS), known as the largest marine protected area in the Philippines, located between Cebu and Negros.

“Tañon Strait is one of the top marine biodiversity hotspots in the country. A strong monitoring mechanism is necessary to ensure that our marine wealth is protected against illegal commercial and destructive fishing,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president for Oceana Philippines.

Oceana is pilot-testing the use of vessel monitoring technology, a non-satellite-based tracking system, to track fishing activities within the protected seascape.

But under the amended Fisheries Code, a satellite-based vessel monitoring systems (VMS) is required by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to be used by commercial fishing vessels weighing more than 30 gross tons.

Ramos pointed out that despite the area’s protected status, overfishing, unregulated coastal “developments,” and pollution persist which impair fish habitats and adversely affect the livelihoods of fisherfolk.

Last week, Oceana presented to the local stakeholders the benefits of vessel monitoring as a tool to track fishing vessels and identify fishing hotspots during the Tañon Strait site management unit (SMU) meetings. The meetings were held in four sites namely, Cebu City; Calatrava, Negros Occidental; and Guihulngan and Dumaguete, both in Negros Oriental.

Vessel monitoring is a non-satellite-based tracking system, which uses onboard units that transmit information such as location and speed of a vessel. The information is transmitted to receiving units, which can be a computer, a tablet or a phone.

This enables users to monitor the position, course, and speed of the vessels from 3.1-30 gross tons, at any given time.

The unit is cheaper than the BFAR-required satellite-based VMS.

The amended Fisheries Code (RA 10654) requires the installation of vessel monitoring technologies in fishing vessels over 3.1 gross tons, for fisheries management, which is helpful especially in delicate ecosystems and protected areas