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PH seas running out of fish, says BFAR exec

12:50 AM November 08, 2015
FISHERMEN from the coastal town of Burgos in Pangasinan return home after a night's work at sea, seeking out a good bounty. They returned with a handful of fish, and the occasional octopus, in May last year. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

FISHERMEN from the coastal town of Burgos in Pangasinan return home after a night’s work at sea, seeking out a good bounty. They returned with a handful of fish, and the occasional octopus, in May last year. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

DAGUPAN CITY—More than a hundred fishermen, mostly from Pangasinan province, were out in the West Philippine Sea when Typhoon “Lando” (international name: Koppu) lashed Central and northern Luzon late last month.

The sea was calm when the fishermen sailed. But the typhoon unleashed violent winds that wrecked their motorized fishing boats. The fishermen drifted for days in the open sea until they were rescued.

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The risks taken by fishermen were an indication of how Philippine seas are running out of fish, said Asis Perez, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), during the national summit on participatory governance toward sustainable fisheries held last week in Pasay City.

“If fish was bountiful, our fishermen would not need to go far into the sea and stay there for many days,” Perez said.

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The Ilocos region has become one of the few places where fish captured from the wild has been lower than what the aquaculture industry has been producing, said Nestor Domenden, BFAR Ilocos director.

“Fish capture used to be more than 60 percent [of the total haul] and aquaculture produced 40 percent. [This year], it is the other way around. Let us go back to the sea, rivers and lakes. Let us stop destructive means of fishing,” he said.

The country’s seas used to be rich in marine resources, Perez said. But unregulated fishing and unsuitable management resulted in the depletion of marine resources, he said.

In a separate talk on Oct. 28, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the fishery sector remains one of the poorest in the country, despite a slide in poverty incidence among fishermen from 41.9 percent in 2009 to 39 percent in 2012.

Poverty among fishermen should not be the case, he said, because the country has a rich shoreline spanning 36,000 kilometers. But what used to be rich fishing grounds have deteriorated because of overfishing and the use of explosives, chemicals and Danish seine (a type of trawler) to increase catch, Alcala said, confirming Perez’s assertion.

“We need to act fast or we will end up losing all marine resources,” he said.

The BFAR has put in place measures and policy reforms that seek to address challenges brought about by illegal and unregulated fishing through the implementing rules and regulations of the amended Fisheries Code of 1998.

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In the Ilocos region, BFAR has banned the Danish seine (locally known as “buli-buli” or “hulbot-hulbot”. The phaseout of destructive fishing gear was started late in 2013, according to Domenden.

The agency has also intensified its campaign against “unsuitable fishing activities by unscrupulous fishermen,” Domenden said.

He said seven motorized boats have been deployed to go after unscrupulous fishermen and unregistered fishing vessels in the region.

To stop unreported and unregulated fishing, the BFAR has implemented a program called BoatR or the registration of all vessels doing fishing in the country’s territorial waters.

To date, it has registered 1,375 fishing vessels which are allowed to operate in municipal waters or 15 kilometers from the shore to the sea.

“We have also registered 70,369 fishermen through a project called FishR,” Domenden said. The FishR aims to put a name to the face of every fish worker, from the vessels’ owners to their workers, vendors and everyone engaged in the fishing industry.

“This way, they can avail of government’s services for fishery and they will not just be statistics when they become victims of calamities,” Perez said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Agriculture, Asis Perez, BFAR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Fisheries, fishes, Lando, Marine life, Nestor Domenden
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