FILIPINO fishermen are catching less and less from depleted oceans compared with previous decades as a result of overfishing, illegal activities, and going for juvenile catch.
In the process, the fisherfolk are earning less for their livelihood, the international non-profit group Oceana Philippines said.
“It is unfortunate that the country’s small and commercial fishermen are fishing themselves out of business, but this trend can be reversed,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines.
Because of overfishing, fishermen—big and small—are now content with less and smaller fishes. Some of them go for the wanton catch of juvenile fish like ‘danggit.’
The average catch was more than 10 kilograms of fish a day in the 1950s, which has drastically dropped to more than 5kgs per day in the 1970s and less than 5kgs in the 1990s.
“Given the same effort, fishers today catch only less than two-thirds or 62 percent than those caught by their counterparts in 1980s,” Ramos said.
The use of destructive methods like cyanide and dynamite remains unhampered, as about 150,000 kgs of sodium cyanide are sold yearly and an average of 10,000 dynamite blasts occur daily, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Another problem is that the juvenile yellowfin and big-eye tuna gather around ‘payaos’ or aggregating device and are caught along with the target species which is the skipjack tuna.
Oceana Philippines and other stakeholders are calling for the amendment of the 2008 BFAR Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO No. 226) to increase the weight of tuna that is legally caught and traded from 500 grams (average weight of juvenile tuna) to at least 15 kg as the average weight of mature tuna species.
“If managed properly, Philippine oceans can be harnessed to feed its growing population of more than 100 million, of which six million directly depend on fishing for food and livelihood,” said Rocky Sanchez Tirona, vice president of Rare Philippines.
“We therefore need to take a concerted action—among small and commercial fishers, government, private sector and NGOs—to reverse the declining trend in fish catch and save the oceans by putting in place science-based fisheries management, and equally as important, making our laws work,” Tirona said.
Besides the Philippines, Oceana also operates in Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Peru and in the European Union.
During its first year in the Philippines, Oceana focused on several advocacy campaigns in partnership with DA-BFAR, DENR, other NGOs and local government units.
Its key programs include protecting the Tañon Strait, the country’s biggest protected seascape between Cebu and Negros, from commercial fishing and reclamation projects, and assisting BFAR, DENR and concerned agencies and host LGUs in strengthening the capacity to enforce laws against all forms of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The board has approved a general management plan, aimed at restoring the beauty and bounty of the Tañon Strait, including stopping illegal and commercial fishing, and eventually transforming it into a model for nationwide fishery law enforcement and management of marine protected areas.
Oceana also supports the BFAR’s ban of ‘hulbot-hulbot’ fishing with the issuance of FAO 246. It also participates in the crafting the implementing rules and regulations for RA 10654, which institutionalizes a monitoring system for commercial fishing vessels, among other mechanisms to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the country.