SEARCA supports call vs subsidy to vessels, operators engaged in illegal fishing

THE Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has expressed support to the call against giving any subsidy to vessels or operators engaged in illegal fishing.

SEARCA released this statement on the "revised draft consolidated chair text on World Trade Organization's negotiating group on rules-fisheries subsidies."

According to SEARCA director Dr. Glenn Gregorio, recognizing the importance of conserving coastal and marine resources as further emphasized in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14: Life below water), they support the call that "no member shall grant or maintain any subsidy to a vessel or operator engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing."

Gregorio said studies show that the Philippine fisheries for years experienced steep declines in catch per unit effort while the marine and capture fisheries landing, both for commercial and municipal fisheries, have followed upward trends due to continuing increases in fishing efforts and shifts in catch composition from more valued to less valued fishes.

"It would be of interest to know the actual status of the Philippine fisheries given we have incomplete comprehensive national baseline data across the country, and systematic resource assessments across the Philippines are still wanting," he said.

Gregorio also said the continued IUU fishing contributed to the degradation of coastal habitats and the decline in fish biomass.

He noted about 60 percent of the total population of the Philippines is in the coastal areas where poverty is being experienced by Filipino fishermen.

"[Thus], the prohibition of subsidies would be instrumental in reducing fishing efforts that if supported with integrative conservation approaches could be instrumental in increasing access by many artisanal and municipal fishers to coastal and marine resources over the long haul," Gregorio said.

A study commissioned by the National Economic and Development Authority was implemented by SEARCA. "In this study, SEARCA also provided an analysis fully supporting the need to implement an integrated and systematic program for a more effective and sustained implementation of the Coastal Resource Management programs of the Philippines," Gregorio said.