Marine conservation organization Oceana celebrated the Chilean Senate’s approval of the bill that updates the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) providing, among other things, increased transparency in access to the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), information that will be public for the first time.
“Chile has taken a very important step in becoming the world’s first country to demand that the information of satellite-based positioning systems be public and updated every month”, said Liesbeth van der Meer, Executive Director of Oceana Chile. “This is an essential tool that will allow us to know, for example, if fishing fleets are operating in protected areas or fishing illegally”, she added. In fact, the bill establishes that people who destroy, render useless or alter the positioning system or the information contained in it can be punished with short-term imprisonment.
The new law provides Sernapesca with greater faculties to fight illegal fishing, offering more tools to deal with this violation when it involves fisheries that are overexploited and collapsed. In addition, it characterizes specific violations during the entire production chain, meaning, processing, production, storage and sale of illegal fish will be punished, increasing the sentence for those who stand to gain the most through this harmful activity.
“This is a great step forward in the fight against illegal fishing, one of the greatest threats to the recovery of our country’s fisheries, considering that 60% of them are overexploited or collapsed”, said van der Meer. “We are safeguarding the sustainability of resources, which must go hand in hand with transparency throughout the whole fishing process, from capture to processing”, she added.
Another element contained in the legal text is the extension of Sernapesca’s operative capacity, providing it with more employees, especially in areas that harbor greater fishing activity. In addition, the Service will regain the faculty to certify fisheries, a task that was currently being handled by private organizations and which is essential to safeguard the proper state of resources.
The new law also recognizes subsistence fishing and protects this activity when conducted by people who are not registered in the artisanal fishing register and when intended for family consumption and small-scale sale.
It should be noted that the bill that updates and strengthens the function of Sernapesca was being discussed for over three years, during which time a number of discrepancies arose between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which were settled by a Joint Commission and cooperation from the Government.