The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) has lifted on Thursday the three-month sardine-fishing ban in the waters off Zamboanga Peninsula, which the government imposed last December to allow the undisturbed reproduction of sardines.
The Bfar, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), said fishermen may now resume their operations in the waters of East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, who led the resumption of fishing operations midnight of March 1, said the government’s imposition of the three-month closed fishing season enabled fishermen to hike their catch.
“There was an increase from 2015 in the catch of Sardinella lemuru [tamban]. It increased to 143,060 metric tons in 2016 and in 2017, rose to 152,283 MT,” Piñol said.
The DA chief said the closed fishing season did not only result in higher sardine population but also increased the sighting of big and high-value fish species that feed on sardines.
“It is beneficial to the country because since they started the closed fishing season, the once rare big fish—tuna, salay-salay ginto [scad]—are gradually coming back to the point that even the people in General Santos City are getting their tuna supply from Zamboanga Peninsula,” Piñol said.
He also committed a P50-million livelihood support to the affected fish workers and fishermen during the closed fishing season.
The Bfar noted that the sardine closed season was initiated by stakeholders and the government in 2011.
Under Joint Administrative Order (JAO) 1, issued by the DA and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the sardine closed season was implemented to conduct scientific research and determine the spawning months of sardines, according to the Bfar.
After three years, the Bfar issued Administrative Circular 255 that established a closed season for the conservation of sardines in the waters of Zamboanga Peninsula.
“Closed fishing seasons are also observed in other fishing grounds like the Visayan Sea, Northeastern Palawan, Davao Gulf and other parts of the country,” the Bfar said.
“The DA-Bfar’s incentive-based program, Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan, lists the observance of closed seasons as one of the five criteria in the search for the country’s most outstanding coastal community,” it added.