Naga City -– Fisherfolks, marine scientists, environmentalists and representatives from the church, the academe and civil society called for government’s stricter implementation of the Philippine Fisheries Code or RA 8550, to ensure that the Bicol region’s seas are protected, in order to reverse fish decline, and revive the fishing economies of the province that is known for its rich marine biodiversity. This was the group’s reaction following a fisheries summit held yesterday, organized by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
At the summit, delegates urged government agencies and local government units in the Bicol region to tackle the issue of illegal commercial fishing that has contributed to the woes of fisherfolks, whose livelihoods have been threatened by the dwindling fish catch.
“The race to find and catch fish shows just how our seas have now become a battleground,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “As an archipelagic nation, government must learn how to better manage our marine resources. Policies set by both the public and private players must be re-examined. We need to push for more regular close seasons and reduce the number of fishing vessels. That way, the seas could replenish itself and become a sustainable source of food, providing income to millions of Filipinos who rely on the sea for their livelihood,” added Cinches.
The Bicol region is notorious for rampant illegal commercial fishing, where large vessels encroach on municipal waters that are exclusive to small-scale fisheries.
The BFAR’s Philippine Fisheries Profile of 2010 revealed that each of the 387 commercial fishing vessels that operate in Bicol takes close to 200 metric tons of fish per annum, as opposed to the mere 1.2 metric tons caught by 54,715 municipal fishing vessels.
“Fisherfolks are at a disadvantage. This data shows a horrifying disparity in terms of access to the sea’s bounty,” said Sally Pernito, Executive Director of Lingap Para sa Kalusugan ng Sambayanan (LIKAS). “No wonder municipal fishermen belong to the poorest sector of society. They are being robbed of their potential income because nothing is being done about illegal commercial fishing,” added Pernito.
The 2012 National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Report states poverty incidence is highest among fisherfolks at 41.4%, higher than the national poverty incidence at 27.9%.
“Bicol’s seas are in a crisis, as is elsewhere in the country. Our fishing grounds are severely overfished,” said Dr. Victor S. Soliman, a fisheries scientist from the Bicol University Tabaco Campus. “Fishing efforts are way beyond sustainable levels and an increase in fishing activities simply does not produce added yield,” Soliman added.
For more information, please contact:
Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines, +63917-5363754
Sally Pernito, Executive Director, LIKAS, Inc., +63932-4256706
Dr. Victor Soliman, Fisheries Scientist, Bicol University College of Fisheries, +639194520027