Healthy Fisheries Production
by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
Mrs. Luz C. Naigan, Elementary School Teacher of Bakhao Norte in a science subject asked, “what can you find in a large body of water like the Sibuyan Sea?” Prompt responses were plastic bags, glass bottles, tin cans, sandals, bags, rugs and last of all fishes. At least the consensus is that Aklan fishery resources mainly living in Sibuyan Sea covering 8,127.0 sq kms. is practically devoid of its once precious commodity. Is this the price we pay for the neglect of our environment and illegal fishing activities? Kids are keenly aware of the impending disaster with dwindling fish catch and worsening poverty.
Aklan has 128 kms. of rugged coastline where commercial, municipal and aquaculture fisheries posted 15,45.93 metric tons in 2008; 15,710.15 metric tons in 2009; and 17,362.01 metric tons in 2010. There is annual increase in volume of fish catch of 2.9 percent . However sectoral data on commercial fisheries show slight increase in the volume of fish catch of 2.5 percent per year, modest increase of 5.5 percent for municipal fisheries and negligible increase of 1.0 percent in aquaculture over the 3-year consolidated report of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.
It is underscored, data included the period when Typhoon Frank devastated Aklan on June 21, 2008. Worse hit were aquaculture projects (busted pond dikes and loss of culture fish stock) and marine fisheries (damaged fishing gears, fishing boats and equipment). Nevert-heless the annual increase in fisheries production could hardly cope up with the population demand. The cheapest animal protein source of Filipino diet is invariably fish, yet the lowly galunggong costs P110 – P120.00 per kilogram in the local market.
Sharp annual decline for the above period in commercial fisheries are Big-eyed tuna (tambakol/bariles) – 33.4 percent, Eastern Little tuna (kutchorita) – 22.0 percent, Round herring (tulis) – 16.1 percent, Blue crab (alimasag) – 13.2 percent and Frinbriated sardines (tunsoy) – 6.7 percent. The shortage of fish supply in local markets lead to spike in consumer prices and importation from neighboring provinces like Capiz, Iloilo, and Antique. The other enterprising fisherfolks venture far off near Sibuyan Island targeting the highly prized yellow fin tuna. The catch however is far short in between the long fishing sorties.
On the other hand, moderate annual increase is noted in Indian sardines (tamban) – 19.7 percent; Cavalla (talakitok) – 10.3 percent; Big-eyed scad (matambaka) – 5.2 percent; Indian mackerel (alumahan) 5.1 percent; Goatfish (saramulyete) – 5.1 percent; and Casio (dalagang bukid) – 4.9 percent.
Plausible explanation for falling production of fish catch is attributed to climate change (El Niño and La Niña phenomenon) and occurrence of typhoons and floods. In addition, rehabilitation of fishing fleet, motorized bancas and fishing gears take at least a year to recover. Favorable fishing months only occur during southwest moonson (Habagat) which starts in May and ends in October.
It appears that at 2.9 percent growth of fisheries per year against population increase of 2.0 percent is not sustainable. This calls for drastic measures like passing statutes declaring off-season harvesting of certain fish species like those previously listed as declining in volume of catch, creation of more municipal marine sanctuaries and artificial coral reefs, mangrove reforestation and strict enforcement of fishery laws. Creating healthy marine environment basically considers continuous linkage in the food chain from plankton to top predators.
Legal sanctions against dumping of solid and liquid wastes into bodies of water will undoubtedly rid the environment of pollution and unnecessary health risk to people and wildlife. It should be underscored, the rise in utilization of plastic materials in commerce and industry for the last 40 years coincided with sharp decline of fishery catches not only in Aklan but in the entire country. Data show that 70 percent of 1,445 municipalities are classified as coastal and dependent party if not wholly on fishing as source of livelihood.
Off-season prohibition against certain fish species like herring was successfully done recently in Zamboanga Peninsula for the canning industry, sinarapan in Lake Buhi, Camarines Sur; and Diwae or angel wing clam in Capiz is nothing new. Seasonal fishing is extensively practiced in the US, Japan, Norway, UK, Australia, Canada. State proclamation covers only certain period where fish specie breeds and spawns hence able to recover. Inland freshwater of Lake Buhi with 1,800 hectares for example is well conserved thus assuring constant supply of the delectable sinarapan, a gourmet food of Bicol.
The affected sustenance fisherfolks with their average monthly income of less than P2,000 are qualified under the Conditional Cash Transfer program of DSWD. Otherwise, they can be conscripted under the Food for Work of the Agency planting mangrove propagules in coordination with DENR and other NGO’s thus bolster P-Noy’s re-greening of the countryside.
An old Chinese proverb says, “one generation plants the trees and another gets the shade”. Indeed our generation lives in the shade of many trees that were planted by our ancestors. The same principle holds true with our water ecosystem. As an archipelago part of the nation’s wealth is dependent upon the health of our seas, ocean, swamps, marshes, rivers, and lakes. We can only build and insure our very own future if everyone cares to become involve. /MP