TACLOBAN CITY—The Regional Development Council (RDC) in Eastern Visayas has endorsed a proposal for the establishment of a research center for fisheries and aquatic resources in the region.
The research center is envisioned to develop innovative approaches in technology, environment and socioeconomic resources in managing three niche commodities in the region, namely, green mussels, oysters, including rock oyster, and blue swimming crab.
The establishment of the Eastern Visayas Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Research and Development Center will entail a budget of P109 million, where over P101 million will come from the Department of Science and Technology, for its five-year operation.
The Samar State University (SSU), based in Catbalogan City, where the proposed research center will be established, will provide a counterpart of P6.5 million, while the remaining amount will be sourced from other partner agencies.
The SSU already has an existing university program called Center for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Research and Development, which is doing research on fisheries and aquatic resources and disseminating information on challenges and opportunities in the fisheries sector.
The university-based program also develops technologies on aquaculture, fishing and fish-processing technologies for a sustainable livelihood of the poor fishers along the Samar Sea.
The regional research center is projected “to collaborate and synergize with international and national agencies, and other research institutions in the region and local government units for biodiversity conservation, sustainable management and development of fisheries and aquatic resources.”
In the proposal endorsed by the RDC, the research center will also “forge partnerships with civil-society groups, non-governmental organizations, people’s organizations and other stakeholders on fisheries and aquatic-resources conservation and sustainable management and development.”
The Samar Sea is an important fishing ground in the country, with as many as 80 percent of families living along the coastal municipalities, deriving their main source of livelihood from fishing and collecting shellfish, seaweeds and crustaceans in the area.
In a report published in September 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) pointed out the urgency in protecting the Samar Sea from too much exploitation.
“In the last 30 years, fish catch has dropped from 8 kilograms per day to less than 3.5 kg,” the FAO warned, citing the Samar Sea Fisheries Management Plan of 2016.
The FAO said various studies conducted underscore the “considerable loss of biodiversity in this once prime fishing site.” An earlier survey found that, of the 50 commercially important fish species that existed in the Samar Sea in the 1980s, only 10 remained a decade later.
“The continued degradation of resources poses severe implications to the livelihoods and food security of the areas’ more than 23,000 fishers,” warned José Luis Fernández, FAO representative in the Philippines. “We are presented with the challenge of balancing human development needs with resource-conservation efforts in order to ensure long-term and sustainable benefits.”
Early this year the Samar Sea Alliance, composed of 13 local government units and stakeholders in the fishery industry, imposed a strict compliance of the Fisheries Code, which bans commercial fishing within Samar Sea.
Calbayog City Mayor Ronald Aquino, who heads the Samar Alliance, said there has already been a considerable increase in the income of marginal fishermen since the ban on commercial fishing was imposed.