Small fishers ask BFAR to lift fish ban in Visayan Sea

SMALL fisherfolk groups around the Visayan Sea on Tuesday asked the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to lift the fish ban imposed in the Visayan Sea, asserting the ban is hurting the livelihood of small-scale fishermen and fish workers employed in small commercial fishing vessels.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamamalakaya ng Pilipinas- Panay ang Guimaras (Pamalakaya-Panay and Guimaras), Pamalakaya-Eastern Visayas, Pamalakaya-Negros Island, Pamalakaya-Central Visayas, Pamalakaya-Masbate, the fisheries NGO group Fisheries and Marine Environmental Research Institute (FMERI) and the Visayan Sea Fisherfolk Forum (VSFF) said the fish ban is harming the livelihood of small fishermen and fish workers employed in small commercial fishing vessels.

The groups said the ban is inflicting economic hardships to small players in the industry since their level of technology can go to high seas compared to medium and large-scale commercial fishing vessels which can go to high seas of Mindanao, West Philippine Sea and Philippine waters close to Pacific Ocean.

“The idea is to ban large-scale commercial fishing vessels from the 15-kilometer municipal fishing water and strictly enforce the rights of small fishermen to traditional fishing areas. However the current fish ban imposed by BFAR targets the “small fish’ and not the “big fish,” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said.

For his part, VSFF spokesperson Victor Lapaz said the fish ban in the Visayan Sea will trigger arests and detention of small fisherfolk or fish workers in small commercial fishing vessels. The fisherfolk leader said on Sunday, members of the Philippine Coast Guard arrested 15 crew members of a fishing banca who were caught engaged in fishing off Cebu.

Lapaz said the Coast Guard arrested the fishermen on board F/B Entan San Antonio. The authorities claimed the fisherment were using “fine meshed nets and active gear” but failed to establish if the fishermen were catching sardines and mackerel, the fish species specified by BFAR that should be prohibited from catching.

The Coast Guard said the vessel was intercepted 1.9 nautical miles west of Barangay Binlayan in Samboan, Cebu. They claimed that some P 2 million worth of items, including the banca, the fishing gear and fish caught were seized by the crew.

The BFAR said the fish ban will start from the mouth of the Danao River on the northeastern tip of the Bantayan Island to Madridejos, through the light house on the Gigantes Island to Clutaya Island, to Culasi Point in Capiz Province, coastward along the northern coast of Capiz to Bulacaue Point in Carles, Iloilo, southward along the eastern coast of Iloilo to the mouth of Talisay River, westward across Guimaras Strait to Tomonton Point in Occidental Negros, eastward along the northern coast of the Island of Negros and back to the mouth of Danao River in Escalante, Negros Occidental.

Pamalakaya maintained that some 100,000 municipal fishermen in the Visayan Sea will be affected by the five month fish ban.

The group said the fish ban will reduce by 25 percent of the annual production. It asserted that fish production in Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental will decrease by not less 87,500 metric tons.

The group said production of fish in Region VII composed of Negros Oriental, Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor will be reduced by for 50,000 metric tons of fish produced, while in Region VIII made up of Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Western Samar and Southern Leyte, production will be cut by 25,000 metric tons as a result of the fish ban.

Previous fishing ban enforced in the Zamboanga Peninsula, covering the East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay from December 1 last year to February 28 this year, resulted in the increase of sardine production from 63,351 metric tons in the second quarter of 2011 to 72,446 metric tons in the same quarter of this year.

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