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BFAR extends closed season for sardines to Visayan Sea

THE closed season for sardines will extend to the Visayan Sea, if the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will have its way.

Nonetheless, BFAR National Director Asis Perez said the bureau will still consult with fishermen and commercial fishing fleets regarding the matter, which was a logical consequence of the apparent success of the sardine fishing ban imposed in the waters of the Zamboanga Peninsula last year.

He said the imposition of a fishing ban in the Visayan Sea is based on Fisheries Administrative Order No. 167 issued in 1989.

Perez justified the need for another closed season for sardines, arguing that it is necessary for the sardine population to grow and ensure sustained supply for canners and municipal fishermen.

Moreover, he said a bigger sardine population all over the country is necessary to increase the catch of tuna, which feeds on the fish along with planktons.   

The country’s inland waters are the haven for big-eyed tuna, with schools of yellowfin tuna swarming the waters between the Philippines and Indonesia and bluefin tuna populating the temperate waters north of the country.

In Monday’s opening of the 49th Fish Conservation Week, Perez said the ban in the Visayan Sea is appropriate since the three major species of sardines like fimbriated sardines (tunsoy), Indian sardines (tamban) and round herring (tulis) breed and spawn in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Visayan Sea.

The latter straddles four major regions—Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas.

All told, Perez said, the Zamboanga Peninsula, the waters of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Visayan Sea contribute between 30 percent and 35 percent of the total sardine population in the country.

Even as Perez spoke, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) reiterated its opposition to closing the Sibuyan Sea in Bicol and Romblon not only to the capture of sardines but to the harvesting of other pelagic fish species.

Pamalakaya earlier argued that closing the Sibuyan Sea and other fishing areas in the Bicol region would work to the detriment of fishermen already reeling from the high cost of fuel since they would have to look for other means of livelihood for at least three months.

BFAR slapped a sardine ban in East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and the Sibuguey Bay from Dec. 1, 2011 to Feb. 28, 2012.

Perez said the compliance with the ban was high, with stakeholders agreeing to the ban.

“The collaboration among the local government units [LGUs], commercial fishing fleets, law enforcers and other players was very impressive. Compliance was close to 100 percent,” Perez said. “What is more inspiring is the impressive increase in production that is already evident within a short period following the lifting of the ban.”

This illustrated by data culled from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Perez said, as he cited the increase in sardine output from only 17,282 metric tons (MT) in the first quarter of the year to 72,486 MT the following quarter.

Sardines accounted for nearly 20 percent of the catch of municipal fishermen and commercial fleets two years ago.

The sardine industry provides about 30,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Zamboanga Peninsula alone.







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