Fisherfolk laments marine sanctuary in Surigao del Norte

Fisherfolk laments marine sanctuary in Surigao del NorteDSC_0774.JPG

Manila, Philippines – The provincial chapter of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) in Surigao del Norte laments the existing marine sanctuaries covering more than 600 hectares of fishing waters in the province’s two municipalities, namely, the General Luna and San Isidro.

According to PAMALAKAYA-Surigao del Norte, the existing marine sanctuary in the municipality of General Luna is 580 hectares in spite that only 200 hectares were approved by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). While in the municipality of San Isidro, the coastal area for sanctuary is 33 hectares and another 30 hectares for expansion will be opened soon.

Marine sanctuaries are designated area declared by BFAR where all types of fishing activities are prohibited in order to preserve the marine species and pave way for the spawning of fish. However, according to PAMALAKAYA, marine sanctuaries often lead to privatization and conversion of fishing grounds into eco-tourism zone. The group also said that sanctuaries do not guarantee protection of marine species because BFAR’s bantay dagat or sea patrol is inutile to prevent the entry of large-scale commercial fishing fleets in the 15-kilometer municipal fishing area that use destructive and exploitative fishing gears like the hulbot-hulbot or Danish Seine where the latter is prevalent in the province.

The group said the declared marine sanctuaries in the province are guarded by policemen and the passageway of small fisherfolk even outside the declared area is strictly restricted.

Marine sanctuaries deprive us of our access to our traditional fishing grounds. The indefinite declaration of fish sanctuaries means indefinite source of livelihood for the small fisherfolk like us who primarily depend on the fishing waters that have been declared as off-limits,”

“We all know that marine sanctuaries are being declared in order to promote eco-tourism at the expense of our livelihood and right to fish. We want the marine sanctuaries be lifted and strictly prohibit entry of commercial fishing fleets weighing 3 gross tons and above to our municipal waters,” Leopoldo Pelinta, Spokesperson of PAMALAKAYA-Surigao del Norte said in a statement.

Around 60 fisherfolk and 100 farmers from the Caraga Region XIII are currently holding camp out in Mendiola, Manila as part of their Manila protest camp dubbed as “Lakbayan Laban sa Kahirapan at Karahasan”. They will be staying in Manila until September 11 and will be holding series of dialogues and picket actions in different government agencies.

The group will stage a picket and dialogue at the central office of the BFAR tomorrow, September 4 to register their position against the marine sanctuary and the amended Fisheries Code of 1998 before the bureau’s director. ###

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