The Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) lifted the three-month closed fishing season in the Visayan Sea in the midnight of February 16, 2021.
Under the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) No. 167-3 s. 2013, the government places the Visayan Sea and its vicinities under closed fishing season from November 15 to February 15 annually in order to ensure the protection and conservation of sardines and herrings (Clupeidae), as well as mackerels (Scombridae) in the said fishing ground during their spawning period.
Recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority shows an overall Philippine production of 391, 175.92 MT of sardines in 2020. Out of this volume, 15, 782.52 MT or 4.03% came from the Visayan Sea. There are six major fishing grounds and several other fishing areas for sardines in the country.
“Knowing its importance to our country’s economy and overall food security, it is our duty to protect these species from further degradation using a science-based approach to fisheries management, parallel with the strategies of the OneDA approach to effect transformation in the agro-fishery sector,” DA-BFAR National Director Eduardo B. Gongona said. Adding that conservation measures like the sardine closed season are integrated in the National Sardines Management Plan which the DA-BFAR is already adopting.
Under the NSMP, the Bureau hopes to work towards the sustainability of the sardine industry in the country, aiming for three goals in specific: to establish improved science-based indicators for the sustainability of sardine stocks, to improve distribution of benefits among sardine fisherfolk communities, and to strengthen science-based management for sustainable sardine fisheries industry.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who champions for science-based policies and programs, also advocates for fisheries management and conservation to ensure the sustainability of the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources. He also backs full implementation of fishery laws and strengthening the skills of law enforcers to effectively implement these laws.
On the span of the implementation of sardine closed season in the Visayan Sea, the DA-BFAR, through its Fisheries Protection and Law Enforcement Group (FPLEG), conducted land-based and seaborne patrol operations, as well as monitoring and surveillance operations through the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).
From November 2020 to February 2021, the Bureau deployed a total of eight floating assets and 38 field personnel in the Visayan Sea, apprehending four vessels for unauthorized fishing and one for the use of destructive methods of fishing.