Oceana calls for rules to protect major PH fishing grounds
Oceana, the largest international ocean conservation and advocacy organization, has called on government to issue the guidelines to protect the country’s major fishing grounds to curb overfishing and illegal fishing activities in municipal waters, and ensure the livelihood of small fishers.
“The policy, as among those provided for under the amended Fisheries Code, pertains to the designation of Fisheries Management Areas, or FMAs, in the country. It is envisioned that a comprehensive science-based fisheries management plan will be enforced on these areas to ensure sustained productivity and protect them from overfishing, illegal fishing and destructive fishing practices that destroy critical marine habitats,” said environment lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines.
She added that the designation of FMAs is needed to rebuild and restore the abundance of the country’s fishing grounds of which two-thirds are considered as overfished.
“Our fishing grounds are in dire need of compelling interventions, with the continued encroachment of commercial fishers in municipal waters and the lack of effective management by local authorities – except, of course, for some local champions who are showing the way to effectively manage their municipal waters which has tremendously benefited their constituents,” said Ramos.
Recently, the Department of Interior and Local Government issued a Memorandum Circular for coastal local government units to regulate and monitor fishery activities in their municipal waters. It likewise rolled out nationwide a scorecard for LGUs to fill up, as a self-validating transparency and monitoring tool in assessing its compliance with the amended Fisheries Code.
Ramos also said consultations have been conducted since last year to craft the rules on fisheries management areas for major fishing grounds led by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
“There is already a draft Fisheries Administrative Order on the designation of around 15 FMAs in the country and outlining the management plan for these FMAs. These rules are urgently needed now, especially in the Visayan Sea, which is a major fisheries area for sardines, blue swimming crabs, and squid, producing around two million kilos of wildish annually, and providing half a million municipal and commercial fishers with livelihood,” she said.
The Visayan Sea directly benefits 100,000 municipal fisherfolk and about one million rural folk in 33 municipalities in the five provinces of Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Masbate, and Capiz.