Senator Imee Marcos said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will have limited success in its campaign against fish smuggling if the agency overlooks online sellers.
The BFAR will start confiscating unauthorized fish imports on December 4 while a seasonal commercial fishing ban remains in force until February next year.
But Marcos noted that the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s) attached agency has issued a warning only to wet markets and supermarkets.
“Smugglers selling online are one step ahead of the BFAR. In an increasingly digital world, wet markets and supermarkets are not the only venues for selling smuggled fish and seafood,” Marcos said.
The senator explained that foreign commercial fishing boats take advantage of the Philippines’ closed fishing season from November to February each year and sell their deep-sea catch to crooked local traders.
“Traders misdeclare their imports, supposedly for industrial use, then later divert them for retail sale in wet markets and lately through popular online shopping platforms,” Marcos said.
Just this week, frozen salmon, pompano, and squid were discovered by BFAR at the Commonwealth Market in Quezon City, but the same seafood was also being sold online.
The DA has only authorized the limited importation of round scad, big-eye scad, mackerel, bonito, and moonfish during the closed fishing season.
“The sad thing is that the smuggled fish may have come from our own waters. This defeats the purpose of enforcing a seasonal fishing ban to allow species to breed and replenish our marine resources,” Marcos said. (PR)