Monday, April 4, 2016

Stiffer penalties for all forms of illegal fishing in live fish trade pushed

Two lawmakers have proposed to impose stiffer penalties on all forms of illegal fishing in the country's live fish trade.

Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), together with his brother, Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. (Party-list, ABAMIN), filed House Bill 4231 to address the illegal live fish trade in the country, which has reached alarming levels.

Rodriguez said the trade of live fish in the country goes on unabated and at the rate it is going, critical coral reefs, particularly in the Palawan area, will soon be gone due to dynamite and cyanide fishing, threatening the sanctity of these endangered areas.

House Bill 4231 prohibits fishermen and all other individuals and corporations to engage in live fish trade using cyanide, dynamite and other forms of illegal fishing techniques.

Rodriguez said the measure also makes it unlawful to engage in live fish trade in order to trade or sell them in international and local markets.

"Live fish trade involves the trade of both food fish as well as ornamental fish for aquariums with the majority of these fishes coming from Southeast Asia. Within the live food trade there are certain types of fish demanded more often by consumers, particularly smaller and medium-sized fish," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said consumers are important because they are directly purchasing these fish species at restaurants and stores. These preferences inevitably affect the biodiversity of marine life making certain fish species more rare to find.

According to Rodriguez, the live fish food trade is a lucrative business which leads some fishermen to use illegal fishing methods and as is often the case, consumers is willing to pay large amounts of money on rare and fresh fish.

Rodriguez said it is estimated that since the 1960s, more than one million kilograms of cyanide has been squirted into Philippine reefs alone with the live fish trade continuously growing.

The bill provides stiffer penalties for any person, whether juridical or natural, caught engaging in live fish trade using cyanide, dynamite and other forms of illegal fishing techniques.

Under the bill, violators face penalties of five to ten years imprisonment and fine ranging from P500,000 to P1,000,000.

The bill mandates the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to issue the necessary rules and regulations and other issuance to ensure the effective implementation of this Act. (House of Representatives)

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