By Gary Stokes - Asia Director, Sea Shepherd
On July 29, 2015, one or more armed persons entered the home of Ms. Gerlie Menchie Alpajora in Sagnay, Camarines Sur in the Philippines. In cold blood, she was assassinated in front of her two young boys with a gunshot to the head. She died instantly. A police report on Gerlie’s murder read, “After careful analysis of the circumstances, the killing of Gerlie Menchie Alpajora has great connection with her work, particularly her advocacy against illegal fishing in her place.”
Ms. Gerlie Alpajora worked as Secretary of the Sagnay Tuna Fishers Association and was a staunch advocate in the fight against Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Gerlie oversaw licensing, registration and spot checks on landings of the lucrative yellowfin tuna catches. In the weeks before her murder, Gerlie had received death threats from the family of a fishermen who was arrested for IUU fishing. The arrest was made based on evidence provided by Gerlie.
IUU fishing ranks as one of the most profitable international crimes, alongside drugs, weapons, wildlife trade and human trafficking. As such, it attracts the interest of some of the world’s most notorious criminal organisations.
With reducing food resources firmly on the agenda at the United Nations and at national levels, the war against IUU fishing has begun the world over.
In June 2014 the European Union slapped a ‘yellow card’ warning on the Philippines for failing to combat IUU fishing. The yellow card is one step before trade sanctions, which would result in the EU closing access to its markets for fish from the Philippines.
The EU is the world’s largest importer of fish. In 2013 the EU imported €165 million of fish from the Philippines. As a result of the yellow card warning, the Philippine’s government implemented a series of reforms to upgrade their fisheries governance, working with the support of NGO’s.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Philippines began training more fisheries inspectors, purchased enforcement equipment and is seeking to install vessel-monitoring equipment. Gerlie worked in one of these initiatives, clamping down on the IUU fishing that plagued the region that she called home. The initiatives have paid off, and the EU recently announced the removal of the yellow card.
We at Sea Shepherd offer our deepest condolences to Ms. Gerlie Menchie Alpajora’s family, especially to her two young sons. She fought for what was right and what she believed would make a better world for her children.
We have been in contact with the Philippine’s National Police who currently have an investigation underway to find her killer/s and bring them to justice. We will follow the case and post updates.