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Bethune & Navy Special Forces capture Pirate Fishing Vessel

For immediate Release. 9th May 2017.
Press Release by: Earthrace Conservation, BFAR, Coral Triangle Conservancy,

Bethune and Navy Special Forces capture Pirate Fishing Vessel

Kiwi Captain Pete Bethune and a group of Philippine Navy Special Forces recently apprehended a pirate fishing vessel while allegedly fishing illegally with “Danish Seine” trawling equipment. Such active fishing gear was banned in 2014 in the Philippines due to its destructive nature.

Since then it has become a target for Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), who believe many boats are still using Danish Seine equipment, however catching them can be challenging.

Teams from Philippines Navy Special Forces, BFAR, local Governor’s Office, and Earthrace Conservation came together in the province of Batangas (Philippines) for joint training exercises in marine enforcement.

The 6-day workshop was organized and funded by The Coral Triangle Conservancy, Inc. via an embassy grant, and emphasized advances in technology to improve the efficiency of marine enforcement operations.

According to Allan Castillo of BFAR, on the Wednesday night after the teams completed inshore training exercises, they “ventured offshore to the Fortune Island Marine Protected Area where local residents claimed commercial vessels were fishing illegally. Within an hour of arriving at the island the teams had issued warnings to two Banca vessels with crew actively engaged in illegal compressor spearfishing.”

According to Captain Bethune of Earthrace Conservation, they had just issued one of the warnings, when they noticed a suspicious vessel further offshore. “the lights just looked different to the little local boats typical of this area”, Bethune says. “As we approached, the boat looked like something out of post-apocalyptic movie WaterWorld. We knew straight away it was illegal, being well in excess of the 3-ton vessel limit for municipal waters, as well as having Danish Seine equipment on the deck. Captain Bethune says “the hardest part in then securing the vessel was the aggressive dogs on board. They were all over us, and continued to bark and snarl as we tried to process the crew.”

According to Bethune, “The vessel turned out to be unregistered, making it a pirate fishing vessel.” Investigation by BFAR revealed the vessel to be the “Dan Israel R”, part of an alphabet fleet of 23 fishing vessels with differing suffix from “A” to “Y”. Although even in the old paperwork there were discrepancies - The “Dan Israel R” was claimed to be just 18m in length, yet Bethune says he estimates “the vessel to be in excess of 30m. Such falsified documents are common in many parts of the world as it often results in lower vessel charges.”

The vessel is alleged to have been fishing for 3 days in the area, and an initial inspection of the hold revealed an estimated 250kg of low-grade fish, representing a very poor catch considering it is a large boat with 18 crew on board. Earlier in the week other similar looking vessels had been spotted in the same area and interviews with local residents suggest there are many such vessel still operating around the entrance to Manila Bay.

Personnel from the Navy Special Forces Unit and PPOSD office in Batangas assisted BFAR with the arrest. The “Dan Israel R” was escorted back to the BFAR facility in Cavite by a Philippine Navy Vessel, and it remains impounded, pending court proceedings. The fine for possession of illegal Danish Seine equipment can be between 2-5 million pesos (US$40,000-US$100,000)

Captain Bethune, who spends much of his time training Fisheries teams around the world, says the “Philippines is blessed to have an enormously rich fishery, but it is increasingly under threat from illegal fishing methods such as Danish Seine, dynamite fishing and compressor fishing. By training up local teams and getting the various enforcement agencies to work together”, he says, “it can be managed sustainably. But there is a lot of work still to do”. He also says “it is important that the municipal waters are better protected from the large boats like the “Dan Israel R” that can do so much damage, depriving large numbers of local fishermen of their livelihoods.”

Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/1kqITfRbUHM

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