Overfishing, pollution, invasive species, and environmental degradation are some of the main factors that threaten the sustainability of freshwater fishes across the country, an academician from National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-NAST) said.
Rafael D. Guerrero III of DOST-NAST’s Agricultural Sciences Division pointed out that this affects mainly indigenous species and those in upland and land-locked areas.
Sustainability of local freshwater fishing was tackled in the recent webinar organized by DOST-NAST titled “Commercially-caught Freshwater Fishes in the Philippines: Status, Issues, and Recommendations,” where aquaculture scientists discussed their take on the issue.
The event was moderated by Dr. Angel B. Encarnacion, Senior Fishing Regulation Officer of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Dr. Guerrero highlighted the economic importance of freshwater fishes, the production of which amounts to 164,845 metric tons or about half of the total fish catch in the Philippines in 2018.
Bicol, Northern Mindanao, and MIMAROPA posted two- to three-fold increases in output, which rose 12 percent overall nationwide from 2005–2018. On the other hand, for the same period, CALABARZON, Ilocos, and Eastern Visayas suffered major downturns ranging from 7–80 percent.
The Nile tilapia accounted for half of the P3-billion catch value in 2017 as it boasted a 75.2 percent climb in production from 2016. On the other hand, the critically endangered “tawilis” enjoyed a 50 percent upsurge, but the endemic “ayungin” posted an alarming 70 percent depletion rate in the same year.
Through the P209.28-million “Balik Sigla sa Ilog at Lawa” program of BFAR, Dr. Guerrero is hoping to improve conservation, poverty alleviation, and food security in rural communities to complement ongoing revitalization and repopulation initiatives.
Another factor that needs to be considered to ensure a sustainable fishing industry is the mindset of both the fisherfolks and those that buy their produce.
“The idea here is that we may change the behavior of our fisherfolk and consumers to attain sustainability,” said Dr. Armi G. Torres of Quantitative Aquatics Inc.
Torres further stressed the value of information, education, and communication materials like posters to address this issue.
For Dr. Ma. Theresa M. Mutia, Chief Aquaculturist at the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, continuous data collection and monitoring of catch are vital in establishing the status, trends, and policy recommendations for inland fisheries.
Moreover, Engr. Eduardo V. Manalili—Director of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development’s Inland Aquatic Resources Research Division of the DOST highlighted the agency’s ongoing biodiversity conservation efforts.
These projects focus on populations of “ludong” in Isabela, “palos” in Cagayan and Bicol, “tawilis” in Taal Lake, and “biya” in Oriental Mindoro’s Naujan Lake. A new project on “ayungin,” according to Engr. Manalili is already in the pipeline.
DOST-NAST serves as the premier recognition and advisory body on science and technology (S&T) in the Philippines. Through its programs and projects, DOST-NAST recognizes outstanding achievements to promote national productivity in S&T research.