A pirate fishing vessel was recently apprehended while fishing within Municipal waters of Philippines for among other alleged violations, being in possession of “Danish Seine” trawling equipment.  Such active fishing gear was banned in 2014 in the Philippines due to its destructive nature. Since then it has become a target for Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), who believe many boats are still using Danish Seine equipment, however catching them can be challenging.

Pirate fishing vessel the "Dan Israel R" being escorted into Manila
Pirate fishing vessel the “Dan Israel R” being escorted into Manila

Teams from Philippines Navy Special Forces, BFAR, Governor’s Office of Batangas and Earthrace Conservation came together in Batangas for joint training exercises in marine enforcement. The 6-day workshop was organized and funded by The Coral Triangle Conservancy, Inc. via an embassy grant, and emphasized advances in technology to improve the efficiency of marine enforcement operations.

According to Allan Castillo of BFAR, on the Wednesday night after the teams completed inshore training exercises, they “ventured offshore to the Fortune Island Marine Protected Area where Nasugbu residents claimed commercial vessels were fishing illegally.  Within an hour of arriving at the island the teams had issued warnings to two Banca vessels with crew actively engaged in illegal compressor spearfishing.”

According to Captain Bethune of Earthrace Conservation, they had just issued one of the warnings, when they noticed a suspicious vessel further offshore.  “The lights just looked different to the little local boats typical of this area”, Bethune says.  “As we got closer, the boat looked like something out of post-apocalyptic movie WaterWorld.  We knew straight away it was illegal, being well in excess of the 3-ton vessel limit for municipal waters, as well as having Danish Seine equipment on board.   Captain Bethune says “the hardest part in then securing the vessel was the aggressive dogs on board.  They were all over us, and continued to snarl and bark as we tried to process the crew.”

The vessel turned out to be unregistered, making it a pirate fishing vessel.  Investigation by BFAR revealed the vessel to be the Dan Israel R’, owned by Danny Ang of Manila.  It is part of an alphabet fleet of 23 fishing vessels with differing suffix from “A” to “Y”.  Although even in the old paperwork there were discrepancies – The “Dan Israel R” was claimed to be just 18m in length, yet Bethune says he estimates “the vessel to be in excess of 30m, although such falsified documents are common in many parts of the world as it results in lower vessel charges”

The vessel is alleged to have been fishing for 3 days in the area, and an initial BFAR inspection of the hold revealed an estimated 250kg of low-grade fish, which according to Bethune represents a very poor catch considering it is a large boat with 18 crew on board.  Earlier in the week other similar looking vessels had been spotted in the same area and interviews with local residents suggest there are many such vessel still operating around the entrance to Manila Bay.

Personnel from the Navy Special Forces Unit and local Police assisted BFAR with the arrest.  The “Dan Israel R” was escorted back to the BFAR facility in Cavite by a Philippine Navy Vessel, and it remains impounded, pending court proceedings.  The fine for possession of illegal Danish Seine equipment can be between 2-5 million pesos.

Captain Bethune, who has trained Fisheries teams in many countries, says the “Philippines is blessed to have such an enormously rich fishery, but it is increasingly under threat from illegal fishing methods such as Danish Seine, dynamite fishing and compressor fishing.  By training up local teams and getting the various enforcement agencies to work together”, he says, “it can be managed sustainably.  But there is a lot of work still to do”. He also says “it is important that the municipal waters are better protected from the large boats like the “Dan Israel R” that can do so much damage, depriving local fishermen of their livelihoods.”

For comment, call Captain Pete Bethune:  +64-9-422-0054

Youtube Video:  https://youtu.be/1kqITfRbUHM

Low res images are below.  Click on the image to download Hi-Res version.

Rear deck of the “Dan Israel R” with Illegal Danish seine trawl equipment
Rear deck of the “Dan Israel R” with Illegal Danish seine trawl equipment
Forward deck of the “Dan Israel R” as she is escorted to Manila
Forward deck of the “Dan Israel R” as she is escorted to Manila
The hold of "Dan Israel R" had an estimated 250kg of low-value fish
The hold of “Dan Israel R” had an estimated 250kg of low-value fish
Crew of the “Dan Israel R” after she was impounded in the Philippines
Crew of the “Dan Israel R” after she was impounded in the Philippines

Any images published please credit “Earthrace Conservation”