El Niño to slash fish catch by 20%–BFAR
At least 100,000 fisher folk throughout the archipelago will be needing alternative sources of livelihood as the strong El Niño is expected to reduce the normal fish catch by at least one-fifth.
This according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) which has come out with the El Niño Mitigation Plan for the Fisheries sector.
According to the plan, the rise in surface and subsurface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean may reduce by 447,000 tons, or 20 percent, the annual volume of fish caught in the open sea.
Likewise, the volume of fish caught in municipal waters—within 15 kilometers of the shoreline—may decrease by 279,000 tons or 23 percent.
The BFAR plan showed the declining fish volumes would take a toll on 100,071 fisher folk spread across 58 provinces.
They include 70,421 fishers who catch fish for commercial distribution; 8,761 who catch fish to vend on their own, and 20,889 who fish for their own consumption.
The figures were based on BFAR’s program dubbed FishR, short for National Program for Municipal Fisherfolk Registration, which is part of efforts to give small-scale fishers access to subsidized insurance through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. As of Feb. 4, at least 1.65 million fisher folk had registered with FishR.
Besides capture fishing, the BFAR said the El Niño may also have a negative impact on aquaculture since high temperatures hasten the decay of organic matter and promote plankton bloom that could result in a fish kill.
Also, high temperatures affect the breeding and growth or survival of fry and fingerlings. Warmer waters also promote the growth of blue algae, which results in that unsavory taste (lasang gilik) in farmed tilapia and bangus.
“In the aquaculture sector, fish farmers on freshwater ponds and cages will be most affected in the first quarter of 2016,” the BFAR said.
Considering this, the BFAR is marshalling at least P673 million through its 2016 budget for measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño on the domestic fisheries industry.
Efforts include P85 million to stock fingerlings in communal waters and establish sanctuaries through the National Aquasilviculture Program.
Also, the deployment of payao—a fish-aggregating device described as a floating artificial reef—and monitoring to ensure that “the most vulnerable population [is] able to benefit” from the devices will cost P104 million.
Through a P225-million initiative, the government intends to step up measures to prevent illegal and destructive fishing. These include protecting coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and mud flats; preventing juvenile fish from being harvested, and banning fishing during spawning season.
The initiative also covers the National Inland Development program, which calls for increasing the natural capacity of lakes, reservoirs and other fresh water bodies to produce fish by natural means.
To help commercial fishers, the BFAR plans to spend about P64 million to speed up the provision of support structures and technologies for the “optimum utilization” of Benham Rise in the Pacific Ocean.
Commercial fishing vessels will also be provided with technical assistance and information to enable them to fish the area, which the Philippines recently claimed.
For the aquaculture sector, BFAR has earmarked P195 million to promote seaweed farming “in appropriate areas.”
On Wednesday, BFAR launched the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan 2016-2020, which is expected to improve the Philippine fisheries industry and make it more globally competitive in the next five years.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the five-year plan reinforced initiatives that had been implemented over the past five years.
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