Thursday, January 13, 2011

BBC docu features ‘dangerous’ fishing method in PHL

A supposedly dangerous fishing method in the Philippines that uses compressors was featured in a new documentary aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The BBC documentary — “Human Planet: Oceans" — showed how a group of Filipino fishermen used pa-aling, a local fishing method where divers use tubes from a compressor to breathe underwater, to catch fish.

The documentary, aired in the United Kingdom on Friday (Manila time), described pa-aling as “one of the most dangerous fishing methods of all."

It also explained how the fishermen, who go as deep as 40 meters under the sea, are at risk of dying from “lethal" bends after diving using “a rusty compressor."

“In the net, if you lose your air or get trapped, you will definitely die down there," the BBC documentary quoted a Filipino diver named “Joseph" as saying.

Pa-aling has been widely practiced in the Philippines after muro-ami — a fishing method where coral reefs are pounded to scare fish — was banned nationwide through Republic Act 8550 (The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998).

Various local environmental groups, such as the Palawan-based Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), have been pushing for the nationwide ban on pa-aling, saying it is dangerous for divers and can reduce an area’s fishing stock by 10 to 20 percent.

‘Not illegal’

At present, compressor diving is “not illegal per se," said Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Malcolm Sarmiento Jr., adding the method can be used for “lawful purposes" such as scuba diving.

“It [compressor] is just a tool, much like the ones used in scuba diving. If we ban it, we might as well ban scuba diving," he said in a phone interview with GMANews.TV on Thursday.

Sarmiento, however, admitted that some fishermen use pa-aling for illegal fishing.

“Some fishermen resort to using compressors for illegal fishing so that they can dive longer. It really depends on what they do. If you squirt cyanide while compressor diving or destroy corals, then that’s illegal," he said.

The BFAR official leaves the decision on compressor diving to local government units (LGUs).

“Under the Fisheries Code, municipal waters fall within the jurisdiction of local governments. Some LGUs have proceeded to ban it [compressor diving], because I think they are in the best position to determine if it will be used for illegal purposes or not," he said. - KBK/LBG, GMANews.TV

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