Commercial fishing for pelagic fishes in Davao Gulf begins

September 1, 2015 5:23 am 

DAVAO CITY, Aug. 31 — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director and Undersecretary Asis Perez on Monday declared September 1, this year to May 31, 2016 as the open season for commercial fishing in Davao Gulf.

"We are happy to declare the Open Season considering that after giving the pelagic fishes a time to spawn then we can now expect our fisherfolk to have a larger and better fish catch," Asis said during the ceremony at People's Park on Monday.

Before the Closed Season, BFAR noted 50 percent of fish catch but it increased to 78 percent after the Closed Season was implemented last year.

“We only have one violator for this year's Closed Season and the case is already in court,” BFAR II Director Fatma Idris said.

The Closed Fishing Season was based on Joint Administrative Order No. 02 of the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior and Local Government which prohibited the catching of pelagic fishes in the Davao Gulf from June to August every year.

This is the second year of implementation of the Closed Season for Fishing in the Davao Gulf and it has reportedly already increased the fish catch in the region by 26 percent based on the first year of the Closed Season alone.

"The fish catch has increased by 26 percent from September to December in 2014 compared to the same period this year," said Jose Villanueva, officer-in-charge of BFAR II’s Fisheries Regulatory and Law Enforcement Division.

BFAR data shows that the fish catch of the municipal fisherfolk versus the commercial fishers has increased from 25-75 percent prior to the implementation of the Closed Fishing Season to 34-66 percent after the Closed Season.

Under the terms of the Closed Season, fishermen or fishing companies will not be allowed to catch pelagic fishes using ringnet and bagnet. The ban also applies to small-scale to large scale commercial fishing with vessels from 3.1 gross tons (GT) to more than 150 GT.

BFAR has consulted with various groups prior to the implementation of the Closed Fishing Season this year including the Municipal and City Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils, the Davao Gulf Management Council and the Academe.

The 338,000-hectare Davao Gulf is a major fishing ground considered as a critical source of livelihood for five coastal cities and 18 coastal municipalities and has one of the most diverse marine ecosystems not only in the country but in the whole world.

The World Wildlife Foundation reported that the Davao Gulf is home to a variety of reef and mangrove species as well as endangered species such as sea cows or dugong and leatherback turtle which are listed in the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

Idris said the Closed Season was implemented since the Davao Gulf has already reached and exceeded the maximum sustainable yield.

Department of Science and Technology-11 Director Anthony Sales earlier confirmed the depletion of fishery resources in 10 locations along the Davao Gulf based on a 10-year study conducted from 2000 to 2010.

The BFAR and DOST study entitled "Strengthening Governance and Sustainability of Small-scale Fisheries Management in the Philippines: An Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management Approach in Davao Region", attributed the depleting fish catch in the Davao Gulf to various factors including water pollution, poor fishing practices, diminishing sea grass, destruction of fishing habitats and the conversion of mangrove areas to recreational resorts.

Villanueva said the study shows that except for maya-maya, the volume and quality of the harvests of 10 commonly fished species in the Davao Gulf namely pelagic fishes like tamban, matambaka, moro-moro, bilong-bilong, caraballas, lapu-lapu, danggit, molmol and talakitok were on a decline which could mean the disappearance of these species in the next decade if these factors are not addressed.

Davao City ordinance No. 093-08, also known as the Fisheries Code of Davao City, already prohibits the “Catching or selling of Juvenile Fishery Species or Gravid Spawners” even without the Closed Season. However, it does not exactly specify the size of the prohibited juvenile. An amendment to this ordinance is up for second reading and will specify the actual sizes of the fish that will be prohibited.

Aside from its main goal of protecting the pelagic fishes in the Davao Gulf during their spawning season, the Closed Season is also being implemented to strengthen the country’s campaign against Illegal, Unreported and Uncontrolled Fishing (IUUF) and to make sure that the country gets rid of the Yellow Card Tag given by the European Union (EU).

The yellow card issued by the European Union to the Philippines in June last year served as warning to the country in fulfilling its commitment in preventing IUUF. It has been lifted after the EU recognized the country’s serious efforts in preventing and eliminating all forms of abuse in its fisheries resources. (PNA)

LAP/LCM/LOVELY A. CARILLO/LDP

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