Commercial fishers supports gov’t sardine closed season for the Visayan Sea

BANTAYAN ISLAND – Commercial fishing operators in the Visayan Sea assures government that they will fully support  the implementation of the 4-month closed season for sardines and mackerels that will start Nov. 15 this year to March 15, 2013 during the send-off ceremony for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ patrol vessels at the Port of Sta. Fe, this province, yesterday.

Angel Buan, secretary of the Alliance of the Philippine Fishing Federation, Inc. along with three other leaders of local fishing associations expressed optimism that with full compliance, the significant increase in sardine catch experienced after the closed season in Zamboanga Peninsula last year would be duplicated in the Visayan Sea.

However, their members have requested the bureau to look into the possibility of having a uniform schedule for the closed season with that in the Zamboanga waters taking into account the latest findings of the agency indicating that the sardines from both waters belong to the same stock and have similar spawning period.

Perez explained that the roe of a single sardine could contain as much as 600,000 eggs. Assuming that less than one percent of this would reach maturity during the 4-month period, this would assure us 500 additional fish for each spawning sardine spared, he added.

Sardine and mackerel production in Western and Central Visayas, the two regions that straddle that portion of the Visayan seas covered by the closed season, comprised about 10-13 percent of the total production of these food fishes. However, the country’s production had shrunk by some 24 percent from close to 600T metric tons in 2010 to only about 472T metric tons in 2011.

The closed season for sardine and mackerel contained in Fisheries Administrative Order No. 167 was issued and had remained in effect since 1989. However, this is the first time that government paid serious attention to its implementation, Perez stressed.

A total of six MCS or Monitoring, Control and Surveillance vessels of the BFAR will head off to strategic points in the Visayan Sea to ensure the compliance of commercial fishing vessels starting Nov. 15. These will be manned by a composite team of officers and staff of the Philippine Coast Guard, the PNP-Maritime Police and the BFAR Fishery Law Enforcement Team, among others.

“The role of our MCS vessels is to serve our people, especially the fisherfolk. They are there to help fishers and prevent them from violating the law”, Perez stressed.

Leonida Jusay, president of Bisaya Alliance of Fisherfolk and Operators for Reform appealed to all fishermen to spare also the catching of small or juvenile sardines, locally known as “lupuy” so it could grow to full maturity.

Likewise, Visayan Sea advocate and internationally-acclaimed environmental lawyer Tony Oposa told the close to 300 attendees that he was impressed with the expression of support from Northern Cebu Commercial Fishing Boat Operators Association, president Engr. Romeo Villaceran who offered to adopt the “fish condo” in order to help rehabilitate reef areas destroyed by dynamite fishing in the island.

The BFAR chief lauded the positive acceptance of the stakeholders including the mayors of the three municipalities of Bantayan to implement the closed season. Perez assured them that the present government will find better ways to address specific concerns of those who will be affected most by the closed season.

Perez encouraged the commercial sardine fishing operators and other small pelagic fishers formally organize themselves into a council similar to the National Tuna Council and other commodity organizations in order for them to develop their development road map and ensure the sustainability of the resource.

Meanwhile, in Iloilo City, BFAR Regional Director Drusila Bojos will also meet today with the commecial sardine fishing operators to finalize the preparations for the implementation of the closed season.

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