Dwindling sardines supply worry fishermen

CALBIGA, Samar — Despite government assurances that sardines supply in the country remains way above the country’s sufficiency threshold, fisherfolk in Eastern Visayas are getting worried about the continued decline of catch in the seas of Samar Island and Biliran as it affects their livelihood.

Joel Sampayan, a municipal councilor in San Isidro, Northern Samar, recalls the good times when the ubiquitous poor man’s fish was still abundant in San Bernardino Strait.

“In the 1980s up to the 90s, you could just pick sardines along the shores and there were plenty of them,” he says. “Maybe they jumped out of the water trying to escape from the big fishes that devoured them.”

“But now, you no longer see them on the shores. If the problems are not addressed, there may come a time when our children will ask what a sardine looks like as they may not see them anymore,” he added.

The problems he sees are the incursion of commercial fishing boats on municipal waters, unabated fish poisoning, pollution from domestic wastes and run-offs of chemicals from farmlands and, to an extent, lack of enabling laws to address sea pollution.

The international advocacy group Oceana pointed out the dwindling catch of sardines last month citing the Philippine Statistics Authority Fisheries Situation Report data of 13.5% reduction in the volume of production of fimbriated sardines (tunsoy), one of the major species, in the first quarter of 2022.

Sufficient supply

The Department of Agriculture, however, maintained that the supply of sardines in the country remains sufficient. The DA, in a statement, said sufficiency level for sardine or tamban is pegged at 222.58 percent for the first quarter of 2022, and 409.06% for the 2nd quarter.

DA forecasts that the annual production for this year at 293,431 metric tons, which are sourced locally from commercial and municipal fishers, and can cover the national demand of 101,367 MT.

Oceana is closely working with various stakeholders for the immediate implementation of the National Sardine Management Plan in all Fisheries Management Areas. FMAs are areas (bay, gulf, lake or others) identified by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources as major fishing grounds.

San Bernardino Strait falls within FMA7 which covers 1,669,900 hectares of sea in CALABARZON, Bicol Region (Sorsogon Bay, Burias Pass, Ticao Pass and Ragay Gulf) and Eastern Visayas (Samar Sea, Maqueda Bay, Carigara Bay, San Bernardino Strait and Irong-Irong Bay).

Last year, the local government units of Allen, Capul, San Antonio, San Vicente, and Victoria, all in Northern Samar, established the San Bernardino LGU Alliance – Northern Samar to work together for common and shared Fishery Management Programs.

Sampayan said that while all the waters within the SaBeLANS area are considered municipal waters that should be off-limits to commercial fishing, the intrusion of commercial vessels mostly from Bicol and Calbayog City remains its biggest problem.

Fisherfolk leader Martha Cadano shares this observation. “These are all municipal waters. The distance from Victoria to San Antonio is only 7 kms, paghahatian pa namin yan. Kung papasukin pa ng commercial fishers, ano na ang mangyayari?” she said.

Cadano, who sits in the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council in Victoria town, has been spearheading livelihood activities such as bottling fish to help the community improve their income.

Commercial fishers

She said that before the intrusion of commercial fishers, sardines were hardly noticed as they were the food of big fishes like mamsa and malasugi which were abundant in their waters.

Commercial fishers, however, said they should not be blamed for the overfishing as they are not competing with municipal fishermen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *