“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
Henry David Thoreau
By Alex P. Vidal
We are glad that Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. also mentioned, albeit briefly, in his State of the Province Address (Sopa) the recent Supreme Court decision that affirmed the ban on hulbot-hulbot not only in Iloilo, but also off the coasts all over the archipelago.
In a move to protect the country’s natural marine resources, Defensor pledged for the total ban of hulbot-hulbot early in 2013.
“Recently, our Supreme Court affirmed the validity of Fishery Administrative Order 246 banning the operation of the super hulbots or the modified Danish seine. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources issued this upon our prodding,” Defensor declared in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) Session Hall August 26.
“Our Bantay Dagat has relentlessly campaigned against this destructive fishing method. I have already called a coordination meeting among enforcement agencies like the BFAR, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Command to work together and enforce FAO 246 to the letter.”
Unknown to most people all over the country, it was Defensor who goaded Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala to issue an order banning hulbot-bulbot or Danish seine fishing in the Philippine waters.
Alcala thus signed Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 246, series of 2013, banning Danish seine and modified Danish seine on September 12, 2013.
Danish seine fishing involves throwing a large rock tied to a net into the sea and dragging it underwater.
The method destroys the country’s marine resources, warned the Iloilo governor, who was regularly briefed by Provincial Administrator Raul Banas, a former mayor of Concepcion, a coastal town in northern Iloilo where illegal fishing has been rampant.
Section 2 of the FAO 246 provides that “it shall be unlawful for any person to operate municipal and commercial fishing boats using Danish seine and Modified Danish seine in catching fish in Philippine waters.”
Persons, associations, cooperatives, partnerships or corporation engaged in Danish seine have six months from the effectively of the order to restructure or convert the same to other legitimate fishing gears.
Violation of the order will face imprisonment from two to ten years and a fine not less than P100,000 to P500,000 or both fine and imprisonment. The boat and gear will also be confiscated.
Before the issuance of FAO 246, the Bureau in Fisheries Administrative Order No. 222, series of 2003, allowed the operation of modified Danish seine in waters beyond 15 kilometers from the shoreline of any municipality.
However, it was learned that it shall not use tom weights or any method or accessories that can destroy coral reefs, sea grass beds and other marine habitats.
The minimum mesh size of the net shall not also be less than three centimeters, it was learned further.
This fishing gear, also known as palisot, pasangko, bira-bira, hulahoop, is a fishing device which consistis of a conical shaped net with a pair of wings, the ends of which are connected to two ropes with buri, plastic strips or any similar material to serve as scaring/herding device with hauling ropes passing through a metallic ring permanently attached to a tom weight (linggote) when hauled into a fishing boat.
Hulbot-hulbot is now officially banned off the Philippines coasts and our coral reefs and sea grass beds will not be spared from its mayhem.
For this, we doff our hats off to Secretary Alcala, Governor Defensor, the Supreme Court, the BFAD, our law enforcers at sea and all those who risked their lives and livelihood to nip hulbot-hulbot in the bud.