Rangers in the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP) World Heritage Site have suspected dynamite fishing in the Jessie Beazley Reef for some time, especially after apprehending a fishing vessel carrying explosives and five tonnes of fish caught in the area, including the protected coral reef species Humphead wrasse or mameng.
Protected Area Superintendent Angelique Songco said that while it was their first time to apprehend a fishing vessel, which had a crew of 26 people, rangers have been seeing blasted fish in the area where they were caught.
“Matagal nang napansin ng mga rangers na sa Jessie Beazley Reef, may mga palutang-lutang na mga isda. May signs na talaga na may dynamite fishing. Nagkataon lang na binalikan nila ‘yong area na ‘yon, at may nahuli nga sila,” Songco said in an interview on Saturday, October 2.
The fishing vessel, which Songco said was from Iloilo, was apprehended on October 1 by the Tubbataha Management Office, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Cagayancillo Bantay Dagat.
Aside from the dynamites and the fish they caught on their boat, they also got a Humphead wrasse. The fish, known as mameng, is a protected reef fish.
According to Songco, the boat will be escorted to Puerto Princesa by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), where they will face charges.
“Sasampahan namin sila ng illegal entry, carrying explosives, and catching protected fish species. Ang lahat ng mga ito ay violation ng Republic Act 10067, or ng Tubbataha Act,” said Songco.
Fishing of any form is illegal in the Tubbataha Reef under national law and because it is a World Heritage Site and marine protected area (MPA).