THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Western Visayas is upbeat to reach the target 20 percent increase in fish production through the ongoing Visayan Sea closed season, its top official said.

BFAR-Western Visayas Regional Director Remia Aparri said stakeholders in the region are showing strong participation in the three-month fishing ban.

Aparri said they have not yet recorded any related apprehensions since the measure was implemented last November 15.

"We would like to underscore the strong participation of our stakeholders in this cause to give the Visayan Sea the rest it deserves," she said, adding that the community has already imbibed the importance of closed season that is geared towards increasing the productivity of specific species.

The region's annual fishery production is pegged at around 398,000 metric tons.

"The fishing activity has been normalized amid the pandemic so we can hit the 20 percent target increase," the official stressed.

The fishing ban which will last until February 15 is provided under Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 167-3 series of 2013.

It provides for the legal basis in enforcing a spatial and temporal closure in the portion of the area.

The closed season is the agency's annual measure to allow the spawning of sardines, herrings and mackerels in the Visayan Sea.

It prohibits the catching, killing, selling or possession of sexually mature sardines, herrings (tamban/tabagak/tamban-tuloy/balantiong) and mackerels (hasa-hasa/ gumaa/bulao/alumahan) or their larvae, fry or young known locally as "lupoy," "silinyasi," "linatsay" or "manansi" in the portion of the Visayan Sea and adjoining waters enclosed by line drawn through following points and coastlines.

BFAR-Western Visayas earlier said the agriculture and fisheries sector proved to be the most important during these trying times of the pandemic and natural disaster.

Its top official said these sectors provided and had kept providing us our primary need – food.

"The challenges brought about by the pandemic showed how vital the agriculture and fisheries sectors are. Through cooperation in conserving our seas, we can ensure that there will be fish on our table here in the region," she said, adding that "now more than ever, our seas need its rest."

The Visayan Sea stretches from the mouth of Danac River on the northeastern tip of the Bantayan Island to Madridejos, to the lighthouse in Gigantes Island, to Clutaya Island, to Culasi Point in Capiz province, eastward along the northern coast of Capiz to Bulacaue Point in Carles, Iloilo, southward along the eastern coast of Iloilo to the mouth of Talisay River, westward across the Guimaras Strait to Tomonton Point in Occidental Negros, eastward along the northern Coast of the Island of Negros, and back to the mouth of Danao River in Escalante, Negros Occidental.

In Western Visayas, areas closed included Northern Iloilo covering from Barotac Nuevo, Anilao, Banate, Barotac Viejo, Ajuy, Concepcion, San Dionisio, Batad, Estancia, Balasan, and Carles; part of Capiz including Roxas City, Pilar, Pontevedra, President Roxas, and Panay; and Northern Negros covering E.B. Magalona, Victorias City, Manapla, Sagay City, Cadiz City and Escalante City.

The closed season also covers the Island of Bantayan in Central Visayas.

The Visayan Sea, as a vast fishing ground, is surrounded by 33 cities and municipalities of the provinces of Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Cebu and Masbate.

As a vital resource, it is home to hectares of corals, mangroves, seagrasses and marine protected areas.

For this year, the implementation is dubbed "Visayan Sea Closed Season: Ang Pahuway sang Baybay and Bantay Visayan Sea."

A P6,000 fine, imprisonment of six months to six years depending on the gravity of the offense, and forfeiture of the catch and cancelation of fishing permits or license await violators of the fishing ban.

"Let us continue to manage and conserve our marine resources, let us allow these species to spawn so as to ensure our supply in the future," Aparri said.