Fisherfolk asks probe into marine sanctuaries in Surigao del Norte

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Fisherfolk asks probe into marine sanctuaries in Surigao del Norte

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Leopoldo Pelinta, a fisherfolk leader from Surigao del Norte speaks at the picket action at the BFAR

Manila, Philippines – Fisherfolk under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Thursday urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to investigate the existing marine sanctuaries illegally operating in the province of Surigao del Norte that covers more than 600 hectares of its fishing waters.

Marine sanctuary in the municipality of General Luna covers 580 hectares in spite that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) only approved 200 hectares of sanctuary in the town. While in the municipality of San Isidro, there is an existing 33 hectares of marine sanctuary and another 30 hectares for expansion will be opened soon.

Marine Sanctuaries are designated areas declared by the BFAR where all types of fishing activities are prohibited in order to preserve marine species and give fish time to spawn. However, according to PAMALAKAYA, marine sanctuaries often lead to privatization and conversion of fishing waters into eco-tourism zones

The declared marine sanctuaries in Surigao del Norte now showcase leisure activities like boat riding, surfing, scuba diving, and sport fishing for local and foreign tourists.

While we are being denied access from our traditional fishing zone, the local government unit opens the area to rest and recreation hub for tourists. This is the reason why we don’t buy the idea that marine sanctuaries are for the interest of small fisherfolk, because we know that the real score behind this sanctuaries is to transform the traditional use of fishing waters into money-making business both of the local government and investors,” Leopoldo Pelinta, PAMALAKAYA-Surigao del Norte Spokesperson said in a statement.

The group also contests the claim of BFAR that marine sanctuaries is for marine life protection, saying the bureau’s designated sea patrols or bantay dagat prohibit only small fishermen while inutile to destructive large-scale commercial fishing vessels. Ring net and Superlight fishing are prevalent in the municipal waters even within the declared marine sanctuaries, they are destructive especially the Superlight because it paralyzes and blinds the fish once its lamp submerge into the water. They are owned by influential politicians and individuals in the province.

Local fishermen in the province also notice the change of pattern of fish species in the region, like depletion of fish capture and loss of several fish species they used to catch before.

How can you protect the marine environment if you convert its traditional use as a fishing ground? Eco-tourism results to ecosystem imbalance because you disturb the habitat of fish and other marine life,”

We held dialogue with the BFAR last Monday but we didn’t get any concrete commitment from them. That is why this time, we call the attention of the DENR because this issue is not only about socio-economic violations, but also an environmental degradation. The local government and the BFAR work together and are fast converting the fragile marine environment into tourist destination. We urge DENR Chief Roy Cimatu to direct his regional directors, particularly in Caraga Region XIII to investigate this widespread pseudo-environmental protection flaunted by the BFAR,” added Pelinta

Almost 200 fisherfolk and farmers from Caraga region currently hold protest camp in Mendiola, Manila as part of their Manila Protest Caravan dubbed as “Lakbayan Laban sa Kahirapan at Karahasan”. ###

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