THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has allocated P50 million in livelihood loans to support fisherfolk and fishing industry stakeholders during the three-month closed fishing season in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
The fund will be made available after the stakeholders complete the workshop under the Production Loan Easy Access program and are given identification cards they could use to apply for the loans, according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.|
The proposed livelihood programs include mangrove nursery operations, broiler chicken and egg production and other income-generating projects.
The fishing ban, imposed from December to February every year, was initiated in 2011 to allow fish stocks in the Zamboanga peninsula to replenish. Fisherfolk have voluntarily ceased fishing during the closed season for the last seven years to allow the species Sardinella Lemuru, locally known as “tamban,” to breed and spawn.
“The three-month closed fishing season is one of the most successful stories of conservation and protection of marine resources for sustainable fishing,” Piñol said.
To ensure the success of fish conservation efforts, local government units in several areas of the Peninsula have implemented the more stringent Market Deprivation Strategy by passing an ordinance that prohibits the sale of tamban in the market during the off-fishing season.
The strategy has resulted in an increase of tamban catch to 152,283 metric tons in 2017 from 143,060 metric tons in 2016 .
“The closed fishing season did not only result in higher sardine population but also increased the sightings and catch of big and high-value fish species that feed on sardines,” Piñol said.
Since the start of the closed fishing season, the once rare big fish species – tuna, tangigue, salay-salay ginto (scad) — are gradually coming back to the point that even the people in General Santos City are getting their tuna supply from Zamboanga Peninsula, said Ed Lim, head of one of the biggest sardines manufacturing companies based in Zamboanga City.
Also, the abundant sardines catch resulted in the sprouting of 11 fish canning facilities in the city that now employs over 50,000 people, including those who man the fishing boats.
It has now grown into a P20-billion industry which exports canned and bottled sardines to many countries in the world, including Europe.
“The sustainability of the program, however, is challenged by the need to provide stakeholders, including fishermen and sardines factory workers, with alternative livelihood during the off-fishing season,” Pinol added.