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  Bantay Dagat

The Strategy

Bantay Dagat is the term coined to describe the practice of sea patrol by volunteers. The strategy originated in Cebu in the 1970s, and was conceptualized when illegal fishing and over exploitation of marine resources were so rampant in the area causing an alarming decrease in the community’s fish catch. The threat was that if fish catch continued to decrease, meeting the fish requirement of the community would even be more difficult.

The community decided to take an immediate action to reverse the decline of the fish production. Since the government could not provide men to regularly patrol the sea, they decided to volunteer their services using their own facilities such as boats, lights, and other needed equipment. The purpose was to stop destructive fishing practices and reduce pressure in coastal waters.

The usual practice when violators were apprehended was to just issue a warning and subject the first-time offenders to a brief lecture on the importance of taking care of the coastal environment.

Strengthening the Strategy

To achieve a positive and measurable impact in coastal resource management, the government recognized that opportunities for partnership with the fisherfolks/communities should be enhanced. Various laws and guidelines were issued which has strengthened the strategy.

Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (BFARMC) serves in an advisory capacity to the local government unit. Among its functions is to assist the enforcement of fishery laws, rules and regulations in municipal waters. The regular members of the BFARMC is composed of the chairperson of the Sangguniang Barangay Committee on Agriculture/Fisheries; one representative each from the Barangay Development Council, accredited non-government organization, and private sector; and at least eight representatives of the fisherfolks. The Council maintains a registry of fisherfolks in their area.

It is further strengthened by the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 (Republic Act 8550). It is stipulated in its Section 24 that members of fisherfolks associations may be designated by the Department of Agriculture as fish wardens in the enforcement of fishery laws, rules, and regulations, provided they have undergone training on law enforcement.

captured illegal fishingThe law also mandates various government agencies, such as Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine Coast Guard, etc., and other agencies concerned with the management, protection, conservation, and development of fisheries and aquatic resources to provide continuous technical assistance to the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMC). The assistance includes organizational strengthening, law enforcement, legal and human right assistance, fisherfolk settlement, training, among others. BFAR monitors the assistance extended to the Council at all levels.

The Bantay Dagat proved to be a very successful enforcement strategy that provide for swift public action to stop destructive fishing practices and illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters. The strategy provides direct benefit and equity to the larger number of fishers and coastal stakeholders employing legal and sustainable methods and serve as the deterrent to those violating national and local laws.

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date documented: November 2000