Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing in the Philippines


Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing weakens efforts to manage fisheries sustainably and also threatens food and livelihood security in coastal communities. In the Philippines, marine biodiversity loss and fisheries decline have a significant impact since fish provide more than 50 percent of dietary protein and serve as an important source of nutrients. An estimated 1.7 million small-scale or municipal fishers are the poorest of the poor—four out of ten Filipino fishers live below the poverty line, earning about $4/day (PHP195/day).

Policy milestones

  • In December 2013, the Philippine government passed Executive Order 154, a National Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. The plan outlines priority actions that will address the ecological, biological and socio-economic challenges posed by IUU fishing in a coordinated and integrated manner with collaboration between Philippine Government departments and agencies.
  • In February 2015, The Republic Act 10654—An Act to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, amending the 1998 Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998—lapsed into law.

USAID Assistance

New Partnerships Launched to Promote Responsibly Sourced Seafood in Calamian (2022)

USAID Fish Right, through the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, has struck a partnership with SeaTrace International, Inc. and municipal government in Busuanga, Palawan to develop responsible sourcing programs for reef fisheries in the Calamian Island Group. The formal signing took place February 11 at the Busuanga Municipal Hall, where the partners also launched the first of a series of information materials on groupers, a key reef species group targeted by fisheries.

The partnership is part of USAID's continuing work on Responsible Seafood Sourcing (RSS) that aims to influence and engage seafood buyers to adopt and implement policies on responsible sourcing, processing, and trading of seafood to prevent the entry of products from IUU fishing. RSS has a two-pronged approach: establishing a commercial supply chain for responsibly sourced seafood, and improving fishing and trading practices for key reef fisheries, such as snappers (maya maya), emperor fish (canuping or betilya), and the highly prized grouper (lapulapu). 

The signing event was attended by representatives from USAID/Philippines, Fish Right, the Busuanga municipal government, SeaTrace, Provincial Fisheries Office-Northern Palawan, C3 Philippines, Busuanga Federation of Fisherfolks and Farmers Associations, and Gender Network.

So what? Partnering with businesses for responsibly sourced seafood can help ensure the protection and sustainable management of fisheries resources while also protecting the livelihoods of fishers and fishing communities.

Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (2012-2017)

Under the Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries activity, USAID assisted the Government of the Philippines, local governments, the private sector and stakeholders to strengthen fisheries governance, management and enforcement.

In partnership with the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, USAID supported enabling policies and provided tools to address IUU fishing. The Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries project assisted with multi-stakeholder consultations in preparation for the implementation of the rules and regulations in RA 10654, which was approved in September 2015. With USAID’ssupport, the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources provided training to fisheries officers to detect, analyze and document fish caught illegally with explosives. The Bureau also published the first Fish Examiners’ Training Manual in June 2016.

USAID partnered with the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to support registration and licensing schemes in the municipal fisheries sector as a key deterrent to IUU fishing. With USAID support, the first nationwide municipal fisheries registration program was established in 2013 to determine allocation priorities, limiting entry into municipal water and monitoring fishing activities. More than 1.5 million of the estimated 1.7 million municipal fishers have registered in the program to date. In addition, a registration of municipal fishing vessels and gear programs was launched in 2015. USAID provides ongoing technical assistance to enhance the efficiency of the bureau’s online registration system and to enact enabling legislation on registration for at least 60 municipal governments across the country.

In partnership with the Philippine Department of Science and Technology and Microsoft, USAID supported the pilot of television white space for municipal fisherfolk registration in Bohol province. Television white space repurposes unused broadcast frequencies to provide high speed wireless Internet access at a low cost and with minimal infrastructure requirements, making it a promising solution in developing countries. With successful implementation, over 16,000 fisherfolk have been registered in the pilot —nearly a quarter through television white space. Government agencies are using this registration data to design and deploy better fisheries management interventions to address overfishing, monitor illegal fishing and provide alternative livelihoods. Following the success of the television white space pilot, the Government of Philippines has taken the leadership role in replicating the technology in other locations to support the goal of providing wireless Internet access to 99 percent of the population.

USAID also supports the Philippine National Police Maritime Group in implementing an anonymous hotline that allows local communities to report illegal fishing. The hotline, 700DALOY, crowdsources illegal fishing detection, helping local government and maritime police better coordinate enforcement. In a six-month pilot in Tawi Tawi, the hotline received more than 3,000 reports, leading to 25 arrests and the recovery of fish worth more than $1 million. The United Nations Environmental Program awarded the Philippine National Police Maritime Group with the first Asia Environmental Enforcement Award for its achievements. USAID also provided support to the maritime police to scale up 700DALOY to include seven more marine key biodiversity areas. In September 2016, the group launched the 700DALOY information management system to improve the collection, retrieval and analysis of maritime law violations.

The National Stock Assessment Program is a key government program to monitor Philippine fisheries. USAID provided technical assistance to improve and standardize the program training curriculum, train new Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources field personnel on data collection in more than 250 sites and enhance the Bureau’s competencies to analyze the exploitation statuses of economically important fisheries. With USAID assistance, the government published a State of the Marine Resources Report in June 2016; the report helps improve the fisheries regulation, including actions to address IUU fishing.

U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Philippine Support Program (2014-2017)

In partnership with USAID, NOAA worksnull with the Government of Philippines to provide support for government-to-government scientific and technical exchange, capacity building, technical assistance, and peer-to peer exchanges to address IUU fishing including improved implementation of fisheries management plans and enhanced competencies in implementing marine park protection measures. With NOAA's assistance, the Government of Philippines will improve the use of fisheries management data and analysis and increase coordination among the government agencies involved in regulating fisheries and marine resources.

NOAA is assisting Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to improve its vessel monitoring system. With USAID support, NOAA is training the Bureau and other enforcement agencies in setting up and analyzing information on an Alert System for Boat Detection for municipal waters and seasonal closure of critical fisheries.

Philippines Biodiversity Program (2015-2020)

In partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program, USAID will continue to support the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource’s 700 new fisheries law enforcement officers in enhancing their competencies on addressing IUU fishing. The new enforcers will be trained using the Fishery Law Enforcement Training module, incorporating the Fishery Law Enforcement Manual of Operations developed with assistance from the program. Continuing assistance will also be provided to the Bureau’s Fisheries Law Enforcement Management Information System, a system for tracking and managing maritime violations. The Bureau designed and developed the System with technical assistance from the program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Law Enforcement Management Information System developers.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program provides technical support to the task forces and interagency law enforcement groups to improve coordination across agencies and facilitate the investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes including those related to IUU fishing.

Protect Wildlife (2016-2021)

This new activity aims to conserve biodiversity in key protected areas in the Philippines and demonstrate the integration of conservation and development outcomes. The activity will achieve these dual objectives using a systems approach that involves capacity building and technical assistance, conservation finance and partnerships, behavior change, science and technology and environmental law enforcement.

The activity will address issues in illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing--all serious environmental crimes in the biodiversity hotspot. The activity represents USAID's support to U.S. Executive Order 13648—Combating Wildlife Trafficking and the U.S. Presidential Memorandum on the Comprehensive Framework to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud as well as to Philippine programs on the same.