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Amid the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) all over Luzon and lockdown of several cities and municipalities to flatten the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID19), the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) continues its monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) of the country's waters to counter illegal fishing attempts of groups or individuals trying to take advantage of the present situation.

Several apprehensions have been made by DA-BFAR Regional Fisheries Resources Protection Groups, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine National Police – Maritime Group in the last two weeks as fishing activities have been exempted from the quarantine period in order to continuously supply fisheries products to Metro Manila and its vicinities. The most common violation recorded is the possession and operation of modified Danish Seine or “hulbot-hulbot,” which are prohibited under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 246 and 246-1, series of 2018.

“As has been emphasized by Agriculture Secretary William Dar since the start of the ECQ, the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of the virus if no action is done. So long as our fishers follow health and safety protocols set by the Department of Health and the Philippine Coast Guard, they may continue their fishing activities. But DA-BFAR will also be on guard against those who employ illegal and unsustainable fishing practices on our waters,” DA-BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona said.

Cases are now being filed against the violators while the illegal fishing gears and nets were turned over to DA-BFAR and other relevant authorities for custody.

Meanwhile, the DA-BFAR, in one of its efforts to ensure the health and safety of fishers onboard, released a set of guidelines for the Philippine Commercial fishing fleet and their operators to adopt amid the spread of COVID-19.

“The agency urges our fishers to follow safety measures against COVID-19 such as observing proper social distancing and seeking immediate medical assistance from community health centers if symptoms arise," Director Gongona said.

DA-BFAR's regional offices will coordinate with the Department of Health (DOH) and the local government units (LGUs) on protocols and measures necessary to prevent the transmission of the disease when the crew members are visited by their families.