BFAR to stop issuing commercial licenses due to overfishing

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Jan) – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said it will stop issuing commercial fishing licenses starting June this year due over exploitation of all the country’s fishing grounds.

In an interview Wednesday, BFAR regulation division chief Jose Villanueva said a memorandum has been sent out by the Department of Agriculture in October last year.

“But we will be implementing this starting June,” Villanueva said.

The BFAR official said the time since the release of BFAR administrative circular No. 254 series of 2014 was spent by the bureau to inform the commercial fishing industry that no more licenses will be given out by June.

“Think of the fishing industry as a pie,” Villanueva said. “The more fishermen you have, the less their share would be from the catch.”

According to a copy of the memorandum, several studies stretching back to 1987 have showed a steady decline in the amount of fish in Philippine fishing grounds as well as a disturbing increase in the exploitation rate from illegal fishers.

The recent one was a study by the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) that showed that the exploitation rate in nine major fishing bays and gulfs in the country attributed to unabated fishing pressure and destructive fishing activities.

According to the National Stock Assessment Program of the NFRDI, exploitation levels of most if not all commercial pelagic species for the last five years have exceeded estimates of potential yield.

In 1987, a study of the biomass of commercially exploited stocks of demersal fish had declined to about 30 percent from measurements taken in 1940.

Small pelagic fish needed three times the effort to be sustainable as a food source in the 1980s, it added.

In 1997, the BFAR concluded that the commercial fishing effort was 45 percent more than the optimal levels.

The agency said there was also a need to decrease fishing activities by 50 to 65 percent in 2004.

The moratorium on the issuance of licenses would last for three years, starting June, the BFAR memo stated.

The pause on the license issuance covers even the conversion of cargo and passenger ships to fishing vessels, as well as the issuance of the construction of commercial fishing vessels.

Villanueva said there were around 40 commercial fishing vessels in the region.

Meanwhile, the BFAR official said that the ban on ring nets and bag nets, which culminated late last year, would also be a regular occurrence starting June this year.

Last year’s ban on the fishing nets netted zero arrests, with Villanueva saying last year’s ban on the said nets was more for information dissemination.

The BFAR official said that the results of last year’s ban were still not available, since the spawning and life span period of small pelagic fish took around one year.