Closed season eyed in Lake Mainit to address dwindling catch

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/03 October) — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource-Caraga Region has proposed imposing a closed season for fishing in Lake Mainit to address the decrease in catch of white goby locally known as pijanga.

Nerio Casil, regional director of BFAR-13 earlier told MindaNews that his office was preparing documents as basis for action of the municipalities around the lake.

Casil said he considers the closed season the best option to help preserve the dwindling number of pijanga, the main source of income of local fishers.

But he clarified the closed season would only take effect during the breeding or spawning period of pijanga.

The fish’s population appeared to have declined in recent years based on the dwindling catch of fishermen, a phenomenon that has been blamed on unsustainable fishing practices and several other causes.

Pijanga is the dominant fish species in the lake that straddles the towns of Jabonga and Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte and Alegria and Mainit in Surigao del Norte.

“During the breeding season, kinahanglan nga dili usa sila hilabtan, paitlogon usa para modaghan pa,” (They should not be caught but allowed to spawn so they can reproduce) Casil said.

Mainit Mayor Ramon B. Mondanao said he favors BFAR’s proposal to ensure sustainable fishing in the lake.

Jun Catalan, a fisherman from Mainit town also said he favors the scheme citing that overfishing has caused the fish population in the lake to decline.

Pijanga size ranges from 57 to 242 mm, according to the 2009 study conducted by Mindanao State University-Naawan Foundation for Science and Technology Development titled “Sustainable Fisheries Management Program for Lake Mainit”.

Pijanga can be bought in the local market at 60-120 pesos per kilo, depending on the size of the fish.

The study said pijanga is the dominant fish in the lake, but its number has declined because of unsustainable fishing practices.

“The lake and river fisheries are rapidly being depleted due to unsustainable or destructive fishing practices, too many fishers, highly diversified fishing technology, and lack of enforcement of fisheries and environmental policies. Income from fishing is no longer sustainable in many areas, and lakeshore communities fear that rare and endemic fishes in the lake will be lost due to overfishing,” it said.

“Lake Mainit also faces threats of habitat degradation due to pollution from agriculture and mining, destructive fishing practices and the use of chemicals or poisons have reduced the aquatic biodiversity of the lake,” it added.

Lake Mainit, the fourth largest lake in the country, occupies an area of 17,060 hectares and has 31 lakeshore villages. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)