AFTER managing to substantially increase fish harvest in the waters off Zamboanga following a ban on sardine fishing from December 1 to March 1 in 2011, the spawning season for sardines, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) declared a closed season for fishing of small pelagic fishes in Davao Gulf last June 27, 2014, that will end on August 31, 2014.
The closed season was highlighted with an overnight watch with no less than BFAR national director Asis Perez last July 25 on board M/V DA-BFAR, a 60-meter, 1,156-ton oceanographic fisheries research vessel built by Astilleros Gondan of Spain, along with two patrol boats.
“The closed season in Zamboanga is very popular now,” Director Perez said, although he admits that it wasn’t like that when they first implemented it three years ago.
“Noong umpisa, minumura ako nang ginawa ko yung closed season. Ngayon, nagmumura sila kung hindi mo i-close,” he said.
BFAR 11 Regional Director Fatma Idris hopes that the 18 towns and cities around Davao Gulf will soon come up with harmonized fishery laws on the use of municipal waters that will complement the closed season.
Both fisheries officials have a good precedent to encourage both local governments and fishers to abide by the ban with the success in Zamboanga.
The closed season for sardine fishing in East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait, and Sibugay Bay was declared under Joint Department of Agriculture-Department of Interior and Local Government (DA-DILG) Adminsitrative Order 1 series of 2011.
Monitoring of catch as a result of the three-month ban showed that both commercial and municipal fisheries in Zamboanga grew by 6.34% the following year, from 146,835.66 metric tons (MT) to 156,143.01 MT. The total catch reduced by 2.83% the year after that in 2013, but this was attributed to weather disturbances and typhoons, which stopped fishermen and fishing vessels from going to sea.
The neighboring regions experienced the spill-off of higher sardine harvest, like that in Region 10, where in 2011, the total sardine harvest recorded for the region was 18,559 MT, which great to 20,705.85MT in 2012, and 22,911.51 MT in 2013.
The BFAR national office earlier sent over three patrol boats to help implement the ban.
The Davao Gulf ban covers the area from Davao Gulf's entrance at Talagotong Point in Don Marcelino town of Davao del Sur to Cape San Agustin in Gov. Generoso, Davao Oriental with a total area of 3,087 square kilometers. Tuna, blue marlin, dolphins, and small pelagic fishes like bullet tuna or pirit, frigate tuna or tulingan, big-eyed scad or matambaka, round scad or galunggong also known as moro-moro, herring scad or caraballas, amberstripe scad or borot, host mackerel or hasa-hasa, and the sardines, among many others. Pelagic means those in the open sea, as opposed to fishes living in corals that are nearer the shores.
Davao Gulf being within the biodiverse Coral Triangle has a big selection of edible fish species, some are endemic, others are part of a global traffic of pelagic fishes that go from one country to another in mass migration and movements, including the various types of tuna. But these have been slowly depleted through generations because of overfishing and destructive methods of fishing.
Among the many destructive methods of fishing, aside from classical overfishing, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) lists the use of large-scale pelagic driftnets as another form that threatens not only fishes captured for food but also large marine animals such as mammals, sharks, turtles and a number of vulnerable species.
To ensure that the closed season is being followed and therefore allow these pelagic fishes to spawn and procreate, BFAR has deployed three patrol boats for the Davao Gulf enforcement team. Davao Gulf has a total area of 623,300 hectares. Of these, 375,700 hectares are municipal waters open only to artisanal and hook and line fishers and 247,600 are insular waters open for commercial fishing. The ban covers only commercial fishing as hook-and-line fishers are still allowed. Commercial fishers are those using large boats with ringnets and bagnets to catch fish.
In a message by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte read by Davao City Councilor Leonardo R. Avila III during the send-off ceremony for the Region 11 Fishery Law Enforcers last June, he called for full support of the ban.
"The closed season will have an impact on a broad base of the society especially when it comes to food security and rural conservation," Duterte’s message read.
Aside from Davao Gulf and Zamboanga waters, there is also a closed season already being followed in the Visayan Sea from November 15 to December 15 every year. The closed season in the Visayas Sea was actually of a much earlier order, Fisheries Administrative Order No. 167 series of 1989, but it was only in 2013 when it was finally implemented.
Penalty for violation of the ban is a minimum of six months to a maximum of six years imprisonment for the three highest officer of a fishing vessel – these can be the operator, the boat captain, and the master fisherman – and/or a fine of P6,000.
Director Perez stressed the need to properly train enforcers to ensure that those violating fishery laws, including the ban, are made to face up for their actions.
“For so long, enforcement has suffered from limited resources of LGUs with no capacity-building for enforcers,” he said. “The entire system requires big improvement.”
With the positive results in areas already closed, explaining the need now is not as difficult as when it first started.
In an earlier presentation, Perez has said that Davao Region had even enjoyed the spill-over effect of the sardine ban in Zamboanga that saw an increase in sardine produ tion in 2013 by 72.14%, from 1,767.96MT in 2012 to 3,043.43 MT in 2013.
Davao Region has also registered 72.14% increase in sardine production from 1, 767.96 MT in 2012 to 3, 043.43 MT in 2013.
Indeed, protecting marinelife requires the cooperation of all whose lives are touched by the bodies of water. As perez said, you can never set up delineations for fisheries because a fish does not recognize geographical territories set out by man.