FISHERY stakeholders in Negros Occidental are urged to allow crablets to grow into a marketable size as measure to ensure sustainability and adequate supply of blue swimming crabs in the province.
Former governor Rafael Coscolluela, on the sidelines of the Commodity Investment Forum held at the Provincial Capitol’s Social Hall in Bacolod City Tuesday, March 19, said it is important to remember the sustainability of the fishery products like the blue swimming crabs.
Coscolluela, also the provincial consultant on investment promotions, export, and trade development, said Negrenses cannot overfish or overcatch these crabs otherwise a large industry can go extinct.
“Local government units (LGUs) and all other stakeholders that have anything to do with the crabs must be aware of the policies and the need for measures to maintain its viable population,” he also said.
The one-day forum underscored investment opportunities specifically for blue swimming crab, mangrove crab (alimango), tilapia and seaweed.
During the activity, one of the major concerns raised was the sustainability of the blue swimming crabs. Inputs were given by exporters and fisherfolk.
Coscolluela said it was pointed out that the selling of crablets in restaurants should be stopped.
Crablets should be released for it to grow into a marketable and exportable size, Coscolluela said.
“The only question now is how dowe put in place the program that will ensure the sustainability and adequate supply of blue swimming crabs?” he said, adding that it’s a large export product that has plenty of labor input.
There’s a high labor component per kilogram of meat of the blue swimming crabs, thus, it could provide more employment to Negrenses, the provincial official also said.
Data earlier presented by Dr.Wilfredo Campos, of OceanBioLAb University of the Philippines-Visayas, showed that in 2016, Western Visayas had the second highest value of fisheries production amounting to P26.94 billion. This accounts to 11.8 percent of total fisheries production in the country.
Blue crab, for instance, is one of the species that is harvested in commercial, marine municipal, and inland municipal fishing.
Among the three sectors of fishing, the production value of blue crab was the highest in marine municipal fishing, amounting to P2.87 billion last year.
In his study “Settlement Habitats of Early Stages of Blue Crab in Northeast Panay,” Campos stated that based on the Blue Crab Production Report of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), a decline in catch of 27,000 metric tons was noted in the region in 2015.
The decline in catch can be attributed to too much fishing, the study showed.
“There is a need to prevent further decline in crab abundance so as not to impact negatively the livelihood of many fisherfolk,” Campos said, adding that conservation efforts, including regulation of catches and gears especially among identified critical habitats for early stages or “baby crabs” should be implemented.
For Negros Occidental alone, Coscolluela said production areas for blue swimming crabs are in coastal areas of Cauayan town in the south stretching toward Escalante City in the north.
Coscolluela said that there is already an ordinance since 2003, prohibiting the “catching and selling” of crablets in the province.
“There might be problems in the enforcement,” he said, adding that “we should let blue swimming crabs grow; we should continue seeding crablets in the coastal areas to ensure continuing population.”
Amid this call, the Provincial Government is urging fisherfolk to release back to the sea undersized crabs instead of selling it to the market.
Coscolluela said if market inspectors strictly prohibit the selling of undersized crabs, this will send a stronger message to the fisherfolk that “if there’s no market, then they will also refrain from harvesting it.”
Moreover, citing the data of the BFAR, the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) earlier told SunStar Bacolod that the blue crab industry in Negros amounts to P8 billion in 2016.
It is the fourth largest export industry in the country. Of which, 30 percent is contributed by the Visayan Sea particularly the northern part of Negros, the business chamberadded.