By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMA
Davao Today

Davao City — Some 100 fishermen from the coastal village of Lasang, this city, sought the help of the Sangguniang Panglunsod Tuesday to curb regular encroachment of big vessels in the coastal waters that they claimed has robbed them of their chance to catch fish in this part of the Davao Gulf.

Fishermen alleged that the big fishing boats were within the 15-kilometer municipal waters, which bans commercial fishing.

“They are just about 6 kilometers away. The big boats can catch 10 tons of fish in just one go. Even if we catch a sizeable volume of that per day, we couldn’t possible catch that much in a year,” said 45-year old Roberto Arsaga, a resident of Barangay Sto. Niño, one of Lasang’s fishing villages.

Arsaga, a fisherman since 1998, said the big boats were regularly seen catch fish in the municipal waters since 2004.

“Niundang ko kadali, naguma kay tungod lagi menos na ang isda (I stopped awhile because of poor catch),” said Arsaga who went to as far as the province of Agusan to try his luck in farming.

Since 1998 to early 2000, Arsaga said fishermen in the place could get a fish catch of 12 kilos by 8:00 am after a night of fishing. “But as of today, we paddle the whole night through to no avail,” he said.

“We can only bring P60 to our families now and we spend that for daily consumption, the education of the kids and other expenses,” he said.

“Kung motira mig kaadlawon, kuntahay makakuha mig 10 kilos, naa man pud na silay monitoring, moarya napud na silag kaadlawon. Kung makakuha mi, makasunod pud na sila dayon (If we get 10 kilos when we start at dawn, they would also know. They have a monitoring of their own. If we get something, they would also follow),” he said.

Arsaga said they have no chance to compete with the big vessels which have more advanced method and equipment for fishing.

“They use big nets and use booms as sinkers and drag it, we do it manually,” he said.

Gilberto Abella, chairman of Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council of Ilang, said that the fishing boats were “medium-sized commercial (fishing) vessels that are semi-fast crafts.”

“They use a special technology like a fish finder and GPS,” said Abella.

He said that the group first use “scanners” to determine the volume and location of the fishes then radios the vessel. The vessel then shines a “super light” on the water to attract the fish.

“They use the superlight to attract tropical fishes, many of which are here because of good salinity. These fishes are what is eaten by Tuna other big predators,” he said.

Arsaga said local-named fishes Malapati, Diwit, Bilong-bilong, Buron, Timbungan, Talakitot are what they catch in the area including Nukos (squid), Anduhaw and more.

Arsaga said the Lasang waters teemed with fishes.

“The fishes here continue to reproduce. They go upstream of the Lasang River to lay eggs and grow large enough to be caught by our nets,” Arsaga said. He believed that if big vessels would only stop their activities in the area for just two months, the volume of fish catch will possibly recover.

“The problem is they use fine net, catching even the eggs,” he adds.

Arsaga said they already reported the presence of the big fishing boats after they first noticed them in 2004 “but nothing happened”. They suspected that the operators of the fishing vessels may have contacts with government authorities “or why else were they able to elude detection”.

During the City Council session, Jose Villanueva, the chief of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Division of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Davao City said that they have not received any complaint related to such incident nor any cases were filed versus the suspected owners of the suspected vessels.

“We have to catch them in the act,” said Villanueva in his answer to several city councilors who asked why nobody has been made answerable.

The City Council gave Villanueva 20 days to investigate the alleged encroachment and to submit the result to the Council.

Villanueva’s answer did not sit well with fishermen.

“Mga bakakon. From Binugao up to Lasang, pangutan-a ang mga barangay fisheries management chairmen diha kung unsa na sila (Liars. Ask all the barangay fisheries management chairperson who these people are),” said Abella.

He said the big fishing boats should be impounded “so that we can go back fishing,” he said.

Arsaga said they would also ask help from city Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)

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