Sardine fishers lament declining catch as stocks deteriorate, urge government to hasten implementation of National Sardines Management Plan - Oceana Philippines
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Sardine fishers lament declining catch as stocks deteriorate, urge government to hasten implementation of National Sardines Management Plan

Press Release Date: October 7, 2021

Fisherfolk in Dinagat Islands used to catch plenty of sardines, until commercial fishing vessels began encroaching municipal waters, which by law are reserved for small-scale fishers.

“(We had plenty of catch) before. But now, not anymore because we see fishing boats using superlight even closer to the shore. This drives us, small fisherfolk, farther into the deeper part of the ocean. Meanwhile, the commercial fishers using superlight are able to catch fish inside our municipal waters,” Eric Sarcauga, a sardine fisher from Dinagat Islands, told fellow fisherfolk Celso Suquib.

Suquib is an Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (IFARMC) representative and their sentiments were aired in a video clip shown during a recent policy dialogue of fisherfolk with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and their regional offices, organized by Oceana.

As sardine stocks continue to deteriorate due to overfishing and harmful fishing practices, more fisherfolk have joined the call to the DA-BFAR to immediately implement the National Sardines Management Plan (NSMP) and ensure its adoption in the 12 Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) of the country.

Pinakamalaking hamon sa amin ang illegal fishing. Nahihirapan kaming kumuha ng sardinas dahil sa mga superlight na pumapasok sa aming municipal waters. Nananawagan kaming mga fisherfolk na sana bigyan ito ng aksyon at magkaroon ng intervention sa illegal fishing. Tulungan ninyo kami dito sa Dinagat Islands para kami ay makapangisda nang maayos at mabuhay namin nang maayos ang aming mga pamilya,” Suquib explained.

(It has become challenging for small-scale fisherfolk to catch fish because commercial fishing vessels that use superlight are also fishing in municipal waters. We are asking the government to intervene against illegal fishing activities. Help the fisherfolk of Dinagat Islands so that we may again fish in our municipal waters and support our families.)

Dr. Wilfredo Campos of the University of the Philippines – Visayas, a consultant of Oceana, recently revealed that sardines in FMA 7, which covers Bicol and Samar, were already overfished.

The team of Dr. Campos, which monitored the movement of sardine stock as well as fishing vessels in the waters off Bulan, Sorsogon and Samar Sea, estimated the annual catch for 2020 at 45,000 metric tons 60% of which came from Bulan where the larger vessels are based. Dr. Campos also emphasized their findings on the exploitation rate of sardines in the area of 0.8 which meant the stock was already overexploited.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that catch of bali (tamban) and fimbriata (lawlaw/tuloy) sardine species significantly declined from 442,045.75 metric tons in 2010 to 325,226.20 metric tons or 26.4% in 2019.

This was recognized by none other than Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who said during the policy dialogue organized by Oceana: “…there is a downward motion in the production of sardines in the country due to several factors like harmful and illegal fishing practices, the looming threat of global climate change, and the continuous destruction of the ocean ecosystem due to pollution. It also does not help that we are currently in a COVID-19 pandemic which exposes the weaknesses of our food system from fragmented supply chains to inefficient production techniques.”

But fisherfolk still encounter problems even for areas with abundant supply of sardines. According to sardine fisher and IFARMC chairperson Romeo Gupong, they are able to catch sardines in large numbers from the Ragay Gulf, but catching in excess leads to spoilage.

Mabubulukan ka talaga kapag masyadong marami ang nahuli. Ang paalala ko sa kanila, sa bawat nasasayang na tamban, tayo rin ang mawawalan. Kaya ang hiling naming sa gobyerno, magkaroon ng sapat na cold storage at value-adding kung saan tuturuan ang mga mangingisda ng tamban kung paano ito i-process,” he said. 

(If you catch in excess, chances are high that these will get spoiled. I always remind them that we are at the losing end for every sardine that we waste. We are asking the government to provide cold storage facilities and value-adding activities to teach sardine processing to the fisherfolk.)

Echoing this call on the lack of sufficient cold storage facilities was Sammy Malvas, regional director of the BFAR Region IV-A and chairperson of FMA 12.

“Issue ang kakulangan ng mga facilities lalo na para sa pagsasaayos ng huling sardines. Ang sardines ay highly perishable. Immediate need ay ang sufficient supply ng ice. Mataas ang post-harvest losses especially during the peak season,” said Malvas. “Magandang guide ang study ni Dr. Willy (Campos) so we can further develop the post-harvest facilities.”

(The lack of facilities for processing sardine catch is a problem. Sardines are highly. The immediate need is the sufficient supply of ice. Post-harvest losses are high especially during the peak season. Dr. Willy’s study is an excellent guide for further developing the post-harvest facilities.)

Furthermore, providing fisherfolk with canning facilities and know-how would also help lessen sardine wastage, according to Martha Poso Escareal Cadano, an IFARMC and woman fisherfolk representative from Victoria, Northern Samar.

Sana dagdagan po ng gobyerno ang pagbibigay ng proyekto sa mga nagsasardinas. Malaking tulong po sa livelihood ng komunidad lalo na ng mga kababaihan kung magkakaroon ng canning facilities dito,” she said.

(I hope the government would provide more projects for sardine fishers. The establishment of canning facilities would provide livelihood opportunities to our community, especially the women.)

According to Dar, sardines make up around 15% of the country’s total fish catch and employs approximately 48,000 workers involved in commercial fisheries capture and allied canning industries.

“Implementing the much-awaited NSMP in all 12 FMAs would help cover and come up with solutions for the problems faced by sardine fishers and the country’s worsening state of sardines,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President of Oceana.

Approved by Dar on May 15, 2020, the NSMP provides the goals, benchmarks, indicators, and recommendations aimed at achieving sustainability of the sardine fishing industry by 2025. But up until now, the FMAs have yet to fully adopt the plan.

Aksyon na ang kailangan ngayon. We are in a critical stage at kailangan na ng sustainable intervention for the management of our sardine fisheries. Kailangang magkaisa tayo at gumawa ng concrete and bold action to protect our fisheries and fisherfolk,” Ramos urged.

(The time to act is now. We are in a critical stage and we are in dire need of sustainable intervention for the management of our sardine fisheries. We need to work together in creating concrete and bold action to protect our fisheries and fisherfolk.)

The Oceana VP’s call was aligned with that of Malvas who said: “We have identified where the sardines are and when these species are abundant. We have capacitated organizations and local government partners. We have also identified the issues and the solutions. Now, we need actions. We need to implement these recommendations and plans.”

“We are optimistic that by 2025, we’ll be able to improve science-based indicators for the sustainability of fish stocks, improve distribution of benefits among sardine fisherfolk, and strengthen science-based management for sustainable sardine fisheries,” said Dar.

Magandang bagay na may National Sardines Management Plan. Ang papel ng pamahalaan sa pagpapatupad ng mga batas ay napakalaking tulong para protektahan mga mangingisda at ang mga pangisdaan,” echoed Pablo Rosales, president of PANGISDA Pilipinas.

(It is good that we have the National Sardines Management Plan. The duty of our government is to enforce the laws that aim to protect the country’s fisheries and the fisherfolk.)


For More Information:  

Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana   

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