Fishermen deplore drop in catches due to “overfishing”
Sardine fishermen in the Dinagat Islands have lamented the decline in their catches due to overfishing and harmful fishing practices by invasive commercial fishermen, who they said are barred from access to municipal waters by law.
Fishermen revealed their sardine catching situation during a recent political dialogue between their group and relevant government agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
“[We had plenty of catches] before. But now, not anymore because we see fishing boats using super-light even closer to shore. This pushes us, little fishermen, further into the deepest part of the ocean. Meanwhile, commercial fishermen using the superlight are able to fish in our municipal waters, ”said Eric Sarcauga, a sardine fisherman from the Dinagat Islands, quoted in a statement released by the non-governmental organization Oceana, the organizer of the virtual dialogue.
Celso Suquib, a representative of the Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Board (IFARMC), concurred with Sarcauga’s sentiments, adding that illegal fishing is one of their biggest challenges today, as is the use of superlight, a strong light using a halogen or metal halide used to easily attract schools of fish.
“The biggest challenge for us is illegal fishing. We are now having difficulty catching sardines because of the ultra-light light entering municipal waters. We fishermen call on the government to act and intervene immediately against illegal fishing. Help us here in Dinagat Islands so that we can fish with peace of mind and improve our lives, ”Suquib said in Filipino.
Oceana said that the team of Dr Wilfredo Campos from the University of the Philippines-Visayas discovered that sardines in Fisheries Management Zone (FMA) 7, which covers Bicol and Samar, were already overfished.
“Dr Campos’ team, which monitored the movement of the sardine stock as well as fishing vessels in the waters off Bulan, Sorsogon and the Samar Sea, estimated the annual catch for 2020 at 45,000 metric tonnes. 60% of which came from Bulan where the larger ships are based, ”said Oceana.
“Dr. Campos also highlighted their findings on the sardine exploitation rate in the 0.8 area, which meant that the stock was already overexploited,” Oceana added.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Oceana said the capture of bali (tamban) and fimbriata (loidroit / tuloy) Sardine species have declined significantly from 442,045.75 metric tonnes in 2010 to 325,226.20 metric tonnes in 2019.
Oceana noted that Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar is aware of the country’s declining sardine catches, citing his speech during the virtual policy dialogue.
“There is a decline in the production of sardines in the country due to several factors such as harmful and illegal fishing practices, the looming threat of global climate change and the continued destruction of the ocean ecosystem from pollution.” Dar said.
“It also doesn’t help that we are currently in a Covid-19 pandemic that exposes weaknesses in our food system, from fragmented supply chains to inefficient production techniques,” he added.
Oceana and the fishermen urged the government to immediately implement the National Sardine Management Plan (NSMP) and ensure its adoption in the 12 FMAs in the country.
“The implementation of the long-awaited NSMP in the 12 FMAs would help to cover and find solutions to the problems faced by the sardine fishermen and the deteriorating state of the sardine situation in the country,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice-President of Oceana.
“It is time to act. We are in a critical phase and we urgently need a sustainable intervention for the management of our sardine fisheries. We must work together to create concrete and bold actions to protect our fisheries and our fishermen, ”Ramos urged.