Militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday blasted the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for implementing the ludong closed season, saying the ban will only affect small fisherfolk.
Pamalakaya Vice Chairperson Salvador France also blamed BFAR’s negligence and incompetence for the depletion of ludong.
“The BFAR is also responsible for the dwindling of ludong. This agency is continuously giving permit to the big private fishing corporations and individuals who are responsible for the illegal modes of fishing like blast fishing which exhaust the ludong’s population,” said France.
“The small-fisher folks should not be included on the BFAR’s order to ban the catching of ludong. The small-fisher folks are the ones who suffer and not the big fishing corporations,” he said, noting that BFAR’s Order No. 31 prohibits “any person, association or corporation to catch, sell, transport and have possession of the fish”.
The group also added that if there’s anyone who should subject to the fisheries order, it should only be the big fishing corporations and not the small-fisherfolks.
“Now the question is what alternative livelihood and concrete help can the BFAR give to the affected small-fisher folks,” France ended.
BFAR has implementation of a closed season for high-value fish ludong (Cestraeus sp) during its spawning period to improve its population. Under Administrative Circular 247, BFAR national director Asis Perez prohibited individuals, associations or corporations from catching Ludong starting October 1 to November 15.
The order covers the entire stretch of Cagayan River, including its tributaries, headwaters and watersheds, Abra River and its tributaries extending to Santa River in Ilocos Sur and the Cordillera Region.
By establishing a 45-day fishing ban, Perez said that BFAR has affirmed its commitment to protect and conserve the country’s native fish species, including the ludong also known as the “president’s fish.”
According to the new regulation, violators will be penalized with imprisonment of six months to one year and/or fine of P6,000 and forfeiture of catch and fishing gadgets.
If the offense involves catching of spawning ludong during the closed season, a penalty of six months and one day to eight years imprisonment and/or fine of P80,000 shall be imposed.
Exporters of spawning ludong will also be penalized with eight years imprisonment, confiscation of catch and a fine equivalent to double the value of the same.
Perez, however, said that BFAR will prioritize prevention of violations through massive education campaign rather than apprehension of violators.
Earlier, BFAR Region 2 Director Jovita Ayson said that the agency will be bringing down alternate livelihood projects to the fisherfolk to mitigate the effects of the closed season to their livelihood.