BFAR sees higher harvest with lifting of sardine fishing ban

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/09 March)– Fisheries officials are expecting higher sardine and herring fish landings this year following the official lifting Friday of a three-month fishing ban along their identified spawning grounds off the Western Mindanao seas.

Lawyer Asis Perez, BFAR national director, said they are specifically targeting to surpass last year’s increase in total sardine landings or production, which came after the first closed season for sardine fishing along the East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay.

Citing the experiences of sardine canneries, he said the increase in sardine production last year reached 25 to 30 percent or equivalent to 90,000 metric tons (MT) based on the country’s average production trend of about 400,000 MT.

In 2012, BFAR earlier said the sardine production in the Zamboanga Region grew from 146,835.66 MT to 156,153.51 MT as a result of the ban.

“This year, I think we can even surpass that because of the spillover effect (of the ban),” he told reporters.

BFAR enforced the second sardine fishing ban from Dec. 1, 2012 to March 1 this year based on Joint Administrative Order Number 1, Series of 2011 issued by BFAR and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

The fishing ban falls under the established spawning season for three major species of sardines — fimbriated sardines (tunsoy), Indian sardines (tamban) and round herring (tulis) — that are found in the East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay.

On Friday, Perez led the official lifting of the sardine fishing ban in a simple ceremony held in the coastal village of Baliwasan here aboard the agency’s research vessel M/V DA-BFAR.

The event, which was joined by officials and representatives of sardine canning companies as well as fishing operators, was among the highlights of the three-day Mindanao-wide Environmental Media Conference hosted by BFAR.

The official said they consider the second closed season as a “big success” as shown by the strong cooperation given by the fishing sector, the association of sardine canning plants as well as government law enforcement units in the area.

“The results of our studies showed that the closure of the fishing area allowed the sardine species to breed and spawn during the period and eventually increase in population significantly,” Perez said.

When the first closed season for sardine fishing was implemented last year, he recalled that sardine fishing and canning players vehemently opposed it.

“This time, there was no resistance because we have proven to them that the scheme is very effective. Now they’re happy and fully supporting (the fishing ban),” Perez said.

Owing to the successful implementation of the fishing ban in the Western Mindanao area, Perez said they are now looking at sustaining a similar regulation that is being implemented in the Visayan Sea.

BFAR imposed the fishing ban in the Visayas area from Nov. 15, 2012 to Feb. 14 this to also increase the population of sardines and herring.

“For the third season, I have commissioned a study for another closure along the Palawan area and this time, it will be focused on our galunggong (round scad),” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)