TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan: To prevent the illegal trade of glass eels and increase their commercial value for the Philippines, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has formulated a plan to strengthen enforcement of regulations.
Dr. Evelyn Ame of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that eels hold much economic potential but are not fully tapped due to weak enforcement of regulatory measures.
She said this is also because of the lack of national master plan towards the development of the resource.
To address some of the issues, the BFAR conducted a “National Training Workshop on Effective Law Enforcement Implementation to Avert Illegal Trade of Glass Eels and Other Wildlife Species” in May.
Participants in the workshop were from BFAR central and regional offices, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, Philippine National Police-Maritime, Zoological Society of London, Philippine Statistics Authority, TRAFFIC, Bureau of Customs, Nueva Vizcaya local government and Nueva Vizcaya State University.
BFAR said the workshop resulted in the identification of various issues affecting the eel trade such as unregulated and illegal trading, lack of traceability, depletion of wild stocks, and lack of awareness.
Other issues identified included weak enforcement of current regulations, weak collaboration among concerned agencies, and non-standardized documentation of eel goods.
BFAR said participants came up with solutions such as capability-building training for regulatory personnel, and intensified information drive on Fisheries Administrative Orders 233 and 242.
Ame said other solutions included research study on biology and grow-out culture of the species, development of value-added products, formation of cooperatives or associations, and harmonization and strengthening of trade protocols.
She said these proposed measures are still to be formalized and submitted for funding.
According to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group, said that while most eel species are listed as lower risk under the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List (except for A. japonica which is considered as endangered), there are factors that threaten the sustainability of the resource.
In a report, Hiromi Hiraishi of TRAFFIC said that live eel fry exports from the Philippines to East Asia peaked in 2012 at 35 tons.
With this, the government issued Fisheries Administrative Order No. 242 prescribing a size limit of 15 cm for eels designated for export to prevent a possible collapse in the wild population due to indiscriminate gathering, resulting in the reduction of the volume of export.
However, TRAFFIC said that there are still indications pointing to the continued export of undersized eels affecting lowly gatherers who have no recourse but to agree to the buying price set by traders.
Meanwhile, Regional Director Milagros Morales of BFAR-2 said that with the proposed interventions, eel fishers will have the opportunity to benefit more from the resource and at the same time sustainability of the resource can be ensured.