Republic Act 10654, which amends the Philippine Fisheries Code, became law in February 2015 after Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III allowed amendments to the 1998 Philippine Fisheries Code to lapse into law — a deliberate inaction in the Philippines that allows items to become law. Under RA 10654, which cracks down on illegal fishing and helps rebuild fisheries, sanctions have been raised to as high as $45 million (PHP) for commercial fishing violators and $2.4 million (PHP) for poachers. Additionally, the amendments call for the installation of a Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) system on all flagged Philippine fishing vessels that help identify commercial vessels operating illegally in Philippine waters, and call for it to be unlawful to intentionally tamper with, switch off or disable the vessel monitoring system.. By passing these amendments, the Philippines avoided penalties by the European Union for failing to meet its standards on sustainable fishing practices.
Oceana, Google, and SkyTruth Announce Global Fishing Watch
Oceana, Google, and SkyTruth partnered to announce Global Fishing Watch, a new big-data technology platform that provides an unprecedented global view of commercial fishing and human interaction with the oceans. It draws on data from the Automatic Identification System to analyze the identity, speed, and direction of vessels, with some specific applications including identifying vessels operating illegally without a license and those that may be falsely reporting catches, as well as pinpointing areas where large numbers of vessels converge. The technology will give citizens a free and easy-to-use online platform to visualize and track fishing activity worldwide, and will have uses for every day citizens to fishery managers and advocacy groups. The trio unveiled a prototype of the technology this November at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney.
Oceana kicked off its operations in the Philippines by hosting a conference, “The Road to Sustainable Fisheries Governance,” to discuss various perspectives on fisheries in the Philippines. Stakeholders from the government, the justice system, academia, and more gathered for two days to discuss challenges, impacts, and proposals on fisheries management, as well as share best practices in sustainable fisheries governance and effective law enforcement. Oceana vice president Atty. Gloria “Golly” Estenzo Ramos spoke at the conference, and will lead Oceana’s work in the Philippines to help rebuild the nation’s fisheries in partnership with native Filipinos. Other speakers at the conference included Oceana’s chief scientist and strategy officer Dr. Mike Hirshfield, Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly, and The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National director Atty. Asis Perez.
Chile Establishes Science-based Fishing Quotas
In late December, the Chilean government announced the first set of science-backed quotas for 2014. With guidance from scientific committees, the Chilean government set quotas for four critical species of fish: common hake, anchoveta, sardines, and jack mackerel. The reductions are dramatic—the government reduced the quota for common hake by 55 percent, for anchoveta by 65 percent in specific regions, and for sardines by 29 percent in specific regions. Chile’s first science-informed quotas are a tremendous step toward reforming fisheries and ensuring that the oceans remain a plentiful source of food.
After campaigning by Oceana and our allies, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted reduce the 2014 sardine catch levels by 33 percent to help halt dramatic declines in this important species. Since 2007, the Pacific sardine population has fallen by almost 979,000 tons and is at its lowest biomass in two decades, according to a population assessment released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October. Declines in the sardine population will negatively impact the many Pacific species that rely on these fish for food, including Chinook salmon, bluefin tuna, brown pelicans, dolphins, and large whales.
The bottom trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska will now have to avoid catching Chinook salmon as bycatch or risk closing their fisheries. A new rule, recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, establishes a limit on the number of Chinook salmon that can be killed as bycatch each year in the Central and Western Gulf of Alaska bottom trawl fisheries. If trawlers targeting rockfish, cod, and flatfish catch more than 7,500 Chinook salmon as bycatch they will have to stop fishing for the season. The rule also requires that all Chinook salmon caught by bottom trawlers be delivered to a processing facility, where observers will count the number of salmon and collect scientific data or biological samples.
The European Parliament approved major reforms to the Common Fishery Policy, a law that manages all European fisheries. Members overwhelmingly voted in favor of a comprehensive reform policy that includes amendments – many of which were drafted by Oceana – that require member states to fish all stocks at sustainable levels by 2015 and comply with a strong EU-wide discard ban, and puts an end to the practice of “discards”, throwing dead unwanted fish back into the sea. Oceana campaigned for years to make sure that this once in a decade opportunity to reform the failed EU fisheries policy was not wasted.
Chilean Senate Passes Sweeping Fisheries Measures
The Chilean senate passed sweeping new regulations that establish a more robust, science based fisheries regulatory regimen. The new laws will close all 118 of Chile’s seamounts to bottom trawling, impose science-based fishing quotas and drastically reduce the incidental capture and discard of unwanted species by improving monitoring on Chilean fishing vessels. Oceana has been pushing for all of these changes for years, and during the passage of this historic legislation our work was acknowledged by several senators as well as the Chilean Minister of the Economy.
Chile Reduces Jack Mackerel Overfishing
The Chilean government announced a drastic reduction in the fishing quota for jack mackerel and other fisheries, starting in 2011. The decision came after Oceana sent the Minister of Economy a report analyzing the annual quota set for jack mackerel during the past 10 years.
The study, put together with data that Oceana obtained through Chile’s Freedom of Information Act, shows that between 2003 and 2010 the National Fisheries Council set the annual quota for jack mackerel at higher catch limits than was recommended by the Institute for Fisheries Development. In fact, in 2009 the quota was 87 percent higher than what was recommended by the agency.
Defending Belize Against Foreign Trawlers
Belize’s Ministry of Fisheries agreed to stop issuing fishing licenses to foreign fishing fleets in the country’s waters pending consultation with local fishermen. The decision came after Jamaican trawlers entered Belize’s southern waters in December, when Oceana called on the government of Belize to suspend all plans and proposals to allow foreign fleets in territorial waters.