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Confiscated Elvers Released into Rivers

Eels Sustainability Politics +4 more

PHILIPPINES - On 8 July, 2012, 46 boxes of freshwater eel fry (elvers) were confiscated by the Quarantine Personnel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Region 4A (BFAR 4A), writes Anna Merlinna T. Fontanilla, BFAR 4A.

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The shipment which was bound to Hong Kong in a Cathay Pacific Flight-CX 904, which was intercepted at the MIASCOR Cargo Center, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Manila.

The interception was made at 3:45AM by Mr Ben Curativo who was doing a routine inspection of cargo boxes before their final loading process. Investigation showed that the shipment was brought to the Cargo Center by Expertrans Forwarding Co. Inc. but there was no identified shipper and consignee as the shipment was later abandoned.

The confiscated elvers were turned over to BFAR-National Inland Fisheries Technology Center (NIFTC) in Tanay, Rizal later in the afternoon upon instruction of BFAR Director Atty. Asis G. Perez.

The elvers suffered mass mortality the next day as reported by BFAR-NIFTC because of stress from transport. To avoid further mortality, 64,000 elvers were dispersed to Daraitan and Sto. Nio Rivers in Tanay, Rizal on 9 July, 2012.

The said rivers connect the municipalities of Tanay, Rizal and Gen. Nakar, Quezon which will allow for the proliferation of eels in the uplands as this species has the habit to swim upstream. This is also seen as beneficial for the upland people, particularly the indigenous population.

Approximately 114,000 elvers remain at BFAR-NIFTC which will be cultured.

The exportation of elvers is a violation of Section 61 of Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 which states that the "export of fishery products shall be regulated whenever such exportation affects domestic food security and production: Provided, that exportation of live fish shall be prohibited except those which are hatched or propagated in accredited hatcheries and ponds".

Also, "to protect and maintain the local biodiversity or ensure the sufficiency of domestic supply, spawners, breeders, eggs and fry of bangus, prawn and other endemic species, as may be determined by the Department of Agriculture, shall not be exported or caused to be exported by any person".

The exportation of elvers is also banned under Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 242 which aims to stop the widespread and excessive exploitation of the species which may lead to the depletion of its population in the country. FAO 242 carries a penalty of eight years imprisonment, confiscation of catch or a fine equivalent to double the export value of the same, and revocation of fishing and/or export permit.