Fisheries plan should be ‘science-based’

The Marcos administration must implement “sustainable and science-based plans” in Fisheries Management Areas to boost local production and eliminate the country’s fish import dependence, an advocacy group said.

“We are already feeling the pinch of the global crisis on food including fish. The country’s marine resources should be prioritized as an integral source of nutrition for the Filipino people, but these continue to degrade because of a lack of political will to fully implement the fisheries laws and the reforms initiated by the decision-makers,” Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president at Oceana, said in a press statement on Wednesday.

“While the FMAs now have the 12 Management Boards and the corresponding Scientific Advisory Groups, management plans are needed to effectively restore our fishing ground and ensure that our artisanal fisherfolk have ample assistance for their livelihood, post-harvest facilities, and perhaps fuel and food subsidies to improve their income and their families well-being,” she added.

In its latest Fisheries Situation Report, the Philippine Statistics Authority noted a 13.5 percent decline in the volume of production of fimbriated sardines (tunsoy), one of the major species with reported contraction during the first quarter of the year.

Catch declines

The state-run statistics agency also reported a decline in all captured fisheries during the first three months. From 973,622.41 MT a year ago, fisheries production volume in both commercial and municipal fisheries dipped to 971,500.80 MT from January to March this year.

The government attributed this to rising fuel costs and has also contributed to its push for fish importation.

According to Dr. Wilfredo Campos from the University of the Philippines Visayas, compounding challenges have been hounding the country’s fisheries sector for years, including overfishing, which is made worse by persistent illegal commercial fishing activities in municipal waters.

“We used the PSA capture fisheries annual production estimates from 2010 to 2021, showing a continuous decrease in annual production over 10 years. This is the longest period in the history of PH capture fisheries since 1950 showing a continuous decline in values. The second longest period was about 5 years in the 1980s,” Campos said

Campos pointed out that the data showed an average decrease of 49,449 metric tons each year, and that from 2011 until 2020, fisheries production lost more than 494,490 MT of fish over these 10 years — a real decrease in capture fisheries production.

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