BFAR, Oceana Philippines team up for National Sardine Framework Management Plan

MANILA-- The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Oceana Philippines have teamed up to create a National Management Framework Plan for sardines -- the first of its kind for the country.

Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries Commodore Eduardo Gongona, in his message during the launching of "Sagip Sardines" Tuesday at Luxent Hotel in Quezon City, urged everybody to help in the conservation and protection of the country's sardines.

"We call on our partners, both locally and internationally, in spreading our message of responsible stewardship, especially when it comes to the management and maintenance of this precious fish resource," he said.

Sardines are an economically vital fish species to thousands of Filipinos. Over the last five years and according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the sardine industry has yielded an average of 355,000 metric tons worth Php 10.45 billion.

"When we look at data from our Fisherfolk Registration System, we see that there are over 800,000 fisherfolk engaged in capture fishing. That is nearly half of the 1.7 million registered fisherfolk across the country, almost a million people dependent on sardines and other fish for their everyday living," said Gongona.

"These numbers mean a lot to your government, which, under the Duterte Administration has committed to provide safe, available, and affordable food for its people," he said.

Sardines are among if not the most accessible source of protein, considering that the fish can be bought at an average price of only Php 50 to Php 90 per kilo. It has become a staple part of the Filipino diet and culture -- having an average consumption of 2.6 grams per day, or 0.9 kilograms a year.

"With the affordability and abundance of the sardine population, the sardine industry is one of the fisheries subsectors that can help us achieve our food security goals," said Gongona.

"Considering the innumerable benefits we reap from this remarkable fish resource, it is only fitting that we work to ensure that the sardine population are properly managed and protected," he added.

Sardines also form the building blocks of the oceanic food chain as they are eaten by larger marine predators like sharks, dolphins and tuna.

Given the significance of this fish specie to the people and marine biodiversity, Oceana Philippines Vice President Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said, "we must ensure science-based fisheries management or risk losing this valuable source."

As such, the government, through the BFAR, has partnered with Oceana Philippines, started implementing and overseeing efforts to keep the sardine resource at a healthy and ecologically sound number through the creation of a National Sardine Management Plan.

With Science as its backbone, the plan will seek to identify concrete steps of action towards the sustainable development of the sardine industry as well as provide with specific goals and objectives.

There is the relentless enforcement of fishery laws and regulations, such as the observance of closed seasons and improvement of value-adding technologies for sardines along with the enhancement of post-harvest facilities and market linkages for our subsistence fishers.

"These efforts, we hope, will be invigorated under one National Sardine Management Plan, which our BFAR personnel along with Oceana and other members of a specially formed Technical Working Group are fast-tracking this year," said Gongona.

"We believe this (National) Sardine Management Plan will be an important milestone not only in so far as sardines is concerned but also in how we, as a society of diverse backgrounds, interests and advocacies, approach the protection and conservation of a precious marine resource," he noted.

For the past five years, closed seasons banning fishing have been successfully implemented in the Visayan Sea, Tanon Strait, and Zamboanga, which produces 80 percent of the country's output.

Oceana Philippines Senior Marine Scientist Jimely Flores said the closed season strategy helped stocks regenerate based on natural seasonal spawning cycles.

Flores, however, noted there is still a need to enhance the implementation of the closed season by having additional management tools such as banning certain fishing gear so as not to catch small fishes; and review quotas of fish catch.

She said these issues would be addressed through the creation of a National Sardines Management Plan which is expected to be finished by October 2017.

Source: Philippines News Agency