By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Philippine government has formalized its plan to regulate the fishing of sardines in the country with the rollout of the country’s first ever National Sardine Management Plan.
This was months since Oceana, the largest international non-government organization focused on marine conservation, has called on the Philippine government to establish management mechanisms on the fishing of sardines, which has already become a staple relief food amid COVID-19 pandemic.
“Maybe because of its size, sardines is one of the most undervalued fishes in the Philippines in terms of protection and management mechanisms. It is one of the least pricey seafood sources of protein for most Filipinos,” Oceana said in an earlier statement.
On Wednesday, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that Agriculture Secretary William Dar already signed the National Sardine Management Plan, which will allow for sustainable use and management of this particular fisheries resource.
The plan, according to the agency, was based on the recommendation of the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, the country’s highest advisory body on fisheries policies.
The National Sardine Management Plan, a product of multi-sector collaboration and initiatives, was created to respond and offer measures to the challenges of the sardine industry over the next five years.
Sardines, which are among the most commercially important fish species and one of the most staple protein sources for Filipinos, have since been plagued by many challenges for many years.
Decreasing catch rates, increasing juvenile catch, decreasing productivity, post-harvest losses, illegal fishing, and poverty among sardine fisherfolk are just a few of the challenges that hound the industry.
The Sardine Management Plan operates with three goals as its main component, including the improved science-based indicators for the sustainability of fish stocks, which includes reduction of sardine juveniles in the landed catch by 10 percent in five years among its many objectives.
The other component would be the improved distribution of benefits among sardine fisherfolk communities by reducing post-harvest losses through the establishment of post-harvest facilities and reducing poverty incidence and increasing income of sardine fisherfolk through provision of alternative and diversified livelihood programs and social enterprise among many measures.
Lastly, the plan aims for strengthened science-based management for sustainable sardine fisheries by setting Harvest Control Rules, developing a data platform among institutions for production data harmonization and reconciliation, and strengthening the implementation of fisheries laws, among other things.
Earlier adopted area-specific sardine conservation measures such as closed fishing seasons in several of the country’s major fishing grounds are incorporated in the National Sardine Management Plan too, while other measures included in this plan will also apply to Fisheries Management Areas.
The plan will cover both municipal and commercial waters.
“We are optimistic that our vision of a sustainably and equitably-shared sardine fishery that contributes greatly to food security and increased income for our sardine fishers will soon be realized through this plan,” BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona said.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that from 2012 to 2017, the sardine industry has yielded an average of 355,000 metric tons (MT) worth ₱10.45 billion.