WITH annual fishery production in Central Visayas falling for two straight years, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the region (BFAR 7) has made boosting production by 10 percent, or 7,928 metric tons, by yearend its objective to avert a third straight year of decline.

BFAR 7 Director Allan Poquita said he hopes to improve the region’s fish production this year to 87,204 metric tons from the 79,276 metric tons recorded last year.

According to BFAR 7, of last year’s volume, 44,169 metric tons came from municipal fisheries, 21,889 metric tons from aquaculture, and 13,217 metric tons from commercial fisheries.

Municipal fisheries refer to operations in marine waters using fishing vessels of three gross tons or less, or fishing not requiring the use of fishing vessels. Aquaculture production refers to the volume harvested from aquafarms.

Of the region’s fish production last year, 44,806 metric tons came from Cebu Province, 18,473 metric tons from Bohol, 13,103 metric tons from Negros Oriental, and 2,893 from Siquijor.

“It is very sad to hear that our [fisheries] industry here in Region 7 is not big compared to other regions even though we have island provinces,” Poquita told SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, at the conclusion of the celebration of Farmers and Fisherfolk Month.

The Philippines has 17 regions.

Fish production in Central Visayas decreased in the last two years, according to the Philippine Statistic Authority (PSA).

In a report released last March, the PSA said that in 2022, the total fish production in Region 7 was estimated at 79,280 metric tons, a 46 percent drop from the 2021 production of 146,710 metric tons, which was already a seven percent decline from the fish production of 157,410 metric tons in 2020.

In 2022, seaweed was the top fishery product in Central Visayas at 13,221.98 metric tons (MT), followed by fimbriated sardines (7,970.88 MT), big-eyed scad (4,087.60 MT), roundscad (3,376.97 MT), anchovies (3,363.95 MT), siganid or rabbitfish (3,196.38 MT), milkfish or bangus (2,894.51 MT), squid (1,877.34 MT), flying fish (1,794.40 MT), and Bali sardinella (1,720.11 MT).

Different focus

Poquita said being industrialized, especially the Cebu islands, the fishing industry is not directly prioritized in Central Visayas.

According to the PSA, the fishing, agricultural and forestry sector had the smallest economic contribution to the economy last year at only P84 billion, or 6.5 percent of the P1.287 trillion gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of Central Visayas.

Accounting for the largest share of 2022 GRDP was services at 69.4 percent, followed by industry, at 24.1 percent.

The GRDP measures the economic performance of a region from the perspective of the producers of goods and services. It covers the value of goods and services produced in the region during the mentioned periods.

No fish shortage

Poquita emphasized that despite a persistent tendency showing a decline in the region’s overall fish productivity, this pattern does not indicate a fish shortage.

“We are not experiencing a fish shortage because of the higher capacity to pay of the Region 7,” he said.

Poquita revealed that the regions import fish products from other areas with abundant catch, particularly Zamboanga Peninsula and Davao Region in Mindanao, and Eastern Visayas in the Visayas.

“That is why we do not experience a shortage. But if we rely only on our local production, clearly it is not enough for the consumption of our constituents,” said Poquita.

He said local fish output meets only 50 percent of the region’s need for fish products, which is 158,552 metric tons.

“In Region 7, the per capita consumption is 38 kilograms per person per year,” he said, adding that excluded in the computation is the tourist arrivals in the region.

In Central Visayas, the Department of Tourism recorded 2.2 million visitors in 2022, which would significantly increase the actual demand for fish products.

Provide aid

Poquita said they are focusing on providing inputs to the municipal fisherfolk so that they can slowly accomplish the target within the next six months.

“Our bias will always be toward our local fisherfolk,” he said, adding that this is in line with its fish production programs.

He said BFAR 7 provides 189,224 fisherfolk in the region with instruction on fish production techniques such as seaweed farming, raising bangus (milkfish) and tilapia, and technological demonstration.

Aside from trainings, he said they have been providing the fisherfolk with fish nets, fiber glass boats and cages.

World Bank

The World Bank said the Philippines saw fish stocks decline by an average of 20 percent over the past decade due to over-exploitation, destructive fishing methods, habitat degradation, and negative impacts from land-based activities.

Thus, the World Bank approved last May 30, the US$176 million Philippine Fisheries and Coastal Resiliency Project (Fishcore), that will positively impact over 1.15 million fisherfolk, small-to-medium businesses and residents in coastal communities.

Small and medium fishery enterprises such as fishing gear and aquaculture equipment providers, cold chain suppliers, seafood processors, and market operators and exporters, many of whom are located outside the immediate project area, will also benefit.

The program will be implemented mostly in Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) Number 6 and 10 under the BFAR’s watch.

FMA 10 is the archipelagic waters between the Visayas and Mindanao or the Bohol Sea.

“The funding will be utilized to support fisheries management and law enforcement, capacity building, infrastructure resilient to extreme weather conditions, and other necessary investments to balance increasing productivity while conserving the natural resources in these FMAs,” World Bank senior environmental economist Jingjie Chu said in a statement. (KJF, EHP)