• BFAR to support development of Benham Plateau

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    The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Wednesday announced a fishery development support on the newly-established fishing ground east of Luzon where the Benham Plateau, more commonly known as “Benham Rise,” is located.

    BFAR Director Asis Perez said that the agency has identified Benham Rise as one of the priority areas for the establishment of payaos or fish aggregating devices (FAD) under the government’s National Payao Program, citing its vast potential for fishery productivity.

    Perez noted that the 13-million hectare under water sea region is rich in marine biodi­versity and is home to high-value fish species such as Bluefin tuna, black and white marline and round scads or galunggong.

    “The deployment of these payaos will provide our fishers with marked spots where prime class of fish species congregates. This will also help them to avoid wasted fuel loitering in the sea in search for good catch,” he said.

    A payao is a fish-aggregating device that would provide fishermen a specific area to fish. It also serves as a sanctuary for smaller fishes that serve as food for the bigger fishes occupying the bottom areas of the ocean. Under the national payao program, BFAR aims to deploy 66 units of offshore payaos in Benham Rise to boost fish productivity from the Pacific side of the country. At present, there are already 49 units of payaos deployed near the waters of Quezon province.

    On Wednesday, BFAR personnel on board M/V DA-BFAR left port to deploy the first batch of payaos. With them were seven commercial fishing vessels that would help scout and study fish species in the area.

    Perez said that fishing operations of the initial seven commercial fishing vessels could yield an estimated 70 metric tons of fish catch per fishing operation, adding that each ring netter could conduct two fishing operations per month.

    “Simultaneous with the implementation of various interventions geared towards the fishery development in Benham Rise, the government research vessels is conducting scientific studies, which will determine the maximum sustainable yield of the new and promising fishing ground for the Filipino,” he said.

    Besides Benham Rise, BFAR will also deploy at least 1,400 units of payaos nationwide to ensure stable fish catch all year round and provide alternative fishing grounds to marginal fishermen, who were affected by the country’s conflicts with China over contested waters.

    “This does not mean that we are abandoning our territorial waters. As government, we want to just make sure that our fishermen are safe amid the tension,” Perez said, referring to the reported harassment to local fishermen by much-larger Chinese vessels at the Panatag Shoal.

    In fact, Perez said that they are now procuring at least 27 multi-mission vessels to help conduct regular monitoring and surveillance near contested areas, as well as the newly established fishing grounds.

    James Konstantin Galvez

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