THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is expecting brighter prospects on the country's fisheries sector this year after a two-year slump.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said with the lifting of a ban on tuna fishing at "Pocket 1" of the Pacific Ocean, Filipino fishermen have resumed their operations in 2012 in said area, resulting in more catch. Pocket 1 of the Pacific Ocean is bounded by Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
As a result, commercial catch of big eye and yellow fin tuna in 2012 totaled to 7,912 metric tons (MT) and 77,730 MT, respectively, according to the DA's Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).
These were 31 and 13 per cent more compared to the total catch in 2011 of big eye tuna (6,021 MT) and yellow fin tuna (68,625 MT), respectively.
Exports of fresh and processed tuna in 2012 also rose by 41 percent to $411 million versus $292 M in 2011, said Director Asis Perez, of the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Alcala said another bright spot is the increase of domestic supply, particularly of Indian sardines or tamban, mainly due to conservation efforts and imposition of a "no fishing season" in waters off Mindanao and Visayas.
The DA-BFAR — in partnership with commercial and municipal fishermen, local government units, and other concerned agencies — has initially imposed a closed fishing season in Zamboanga Peninsula from December 2011 to February 2012, coinciding with the sardines' spawning season. The closed fishing season covered East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay.
As a result, Perez said catch of sardines has initially increased by six percent to 156,150 MT in 2012 versus 146,835 MT in 2011.
The three-month "no fishing season" was again imposed this year in Zamboanga, from December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013.
"We have also imposed a similar closed fishing season in the Visayan Seas," said Alcala. The ban started on November 15, 2012 and ended on March 15, 2013.
BFAR assistant director Drucila Esther Bayate said a "no fishing season" on said months in the Visayan Sea has been in existence since 1989, but it was only this year that the policy was vigorously implemented with the full cooperation of all commercial fishing operators, local government units, Philippine Coast Guard and other stakeholders. She said the Visayan Seas is a major source of sardines, herrings and mackerels.
As a positive consequence, Alcala said the DA-BFAR has reported that tamban is now caught abundantly in Ragay Gulf in Camarines Sur.
With the initial success in Zamboanga and Visayan Seas, he said the DA-BFAR is considering other major fishing grounds like Palawan, where a "no fishing season" could be imposed. (SDR/Sunnex)