What happened to the Plan to save Philippine sardines?
Press Release Date: May 27, 2022
The National Sardines Management Plan (Plan) was signed on May 15, 2020, to curb and stop the alarming decline of the sardine stock of the country. Two years thereafter, sardine fisherfolk are still struggling with their dwindling catch and only two out of the 12 Fisheries Management Areas Management Boards have adopted the Plan.
Compounded by the climate crisis and the recent spate of global challenges affecting the prices of fuel and many other commodities, international advocacy group Oceana is concerned over the critical state of Philippine sardine population and the fate of the fisherfolk who are dependent on this marine resource for their livelihood.
“Sardines are one of the most affordable sources of protein for Filipino families. They are nutrients-packed which can address malnutrition among our children and women, yet so much must be done to protect them from collapse. Data show that the sardines in our country have already reached its Limit Reference Point,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President.
“The National Sardines Management Plan envisions a sustainable and equitably shared sardine fishery that contributes to food security and increased income through responsible management from 2020 until 2025. It can provide the major sardine fishing grounds with the badly needed attention and solutions but sadly, only a few are working on the implementation of this Plan. The implementation is mandatory and not discretionary on the part of the management authorities,” she added.
While a policy exists for a yearly fishing ban for sardines in major fishing grounds like the Visayan Sea, Northern Palawan, and the Zamboanga Peninsula, this is simply not enough to protect sardines from overexploitation. A study on seasonal fishery closure in the Visayan Sea revealed that the annual fishing ban has not been able to make a dent in the goal to conserve its sardine stock.
“Due to overexploitation, sardines caught by our fisherfolk are smaller than the ideal size of mature sardines,” said Dr. Wilfredo Campos of the University of the Philippines Visayas who led the team who worked on sardine studies with Oceana. Those studies disclosed that sardines in the Visayan Sea and FMA 7 which cover the waters off Ticao Burias Pass in Bicol Region and Samar Sea were already overfished.
The worsening state is also evident in the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) which show a 26.4% drop from the catch of bali (tamban) and fimbriata (lawlaw/tuloy) sardine species from 442,045.74 metric tons in 2010 to 325,226.20 metric tons in 2019.
“Matinding pasanin sa aming mga mangingisda ang pagtaas ng presyo ng gasolina at iba pang mga pangangailangan sa panahong ito. Kaya inaasahan namin na sa pagpapatupad ng National Sardines Management Plan ay manumbalik na sana ang sigla ng aming kabuhayan. Ngunit magdadalawang taon na, wala pa ring maayos na implementasyon ang plano para sagipin ang sardinas. Kada palaot namin, paunti nang paunti at paliit nang paliit ang aming nahuhuli,” lamented Eastern Visayas Regional Fisherfolk Director Martha Cadano.
Late last year, Agriculture Secretary William Dar ordered the Plan to be rolled out nationwide in his speech during the second Fisheries Management Areas Summit.
“We can no longer ignore the critical need to manage our sardine fisheries. This means that all 12 Fisheries Management Areas must abide by the National Sardines Management Plan I signed in May last year,” said Dar.
The Plan aims to achieve sustainability of the sardine fishing industry by 2025 by addressing the need for harvest control rules, reference points, catch documentation, post-harvest facilities, and measures against illegal fishing. However, out of the 12 FMAs only the Fisheries Management Area 7 and Fisheries Management Area 12 have adopted the Plan through a resolution approved by their respective Management Body. Fisheries Management Area 7 is comprised of Sorsogon Bay, Ragay Gulf, Ticao Burias Pass, Cariaga Bay, Magueda Bay, San Bernardino Strait, Irong-Irong Bay, and Samar Sea while Fisheries Management Area 12 covers Balayan Bay, Calatagan Bay, Batangas Bay, Tayabas Bay, Tablas Strait, Mogpog Pass, and Sibuyan Sea.
“Dito sa amin sa Fisheries Management Area 8, hindi pa rin ina-adopt ang National Sardine Management Plan. Ang hiling naming mga mangingisda rito, pakinggan rin naman sana kami. Kailangan nang pagtuunan ng pansin ang lumiliit na huli ng sardinas dito. Ito sana ang ikabubuhay ng marami sa amin, naririyan naman na ang plano, bakit hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa ito maipatupad,” said Celso Suquib, a fisherfolk representative of the Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (IFARMC) from the Province of Dinagat Islands. Fisheries Management Area 8 covers the fishing grounds of Leyte Gulf, San Pedro Bay, Cabalian Bay, Dinagat Sound, Hinatuan Passage, Surigao Strait, and Lanuza Bay.
“We urge the FMA management bodies to have the much-needed sense of urgency and heed the call of the Department of Agriculture and artisanal fisherfolk, seriously look at the alarming data, adopt the necessary measures to implement the Plan. We may only have this time to restore the country’s sardine industry. We must implement concrete measures such as lessening fishing pressures and work together to sustain this valuable resource for every Filipino,” Ramos urged.
Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore the abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources. [END]
For More Information:
Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana
Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org