CITING a continuous decline in fish production, the regional office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Davao has closed off the Davao Gulf from commercial fishing until August this year.

From June 27 to August 31, BFAR is implementing the fishing ban to conserve marine resources and to secure the spawning period of pelagic fishes in the 23,000-hectare gulf.

Fatma Idris, BFAR-Davao director, said during the Kapehan sa PIA at the regional office of the Philippine Information Agency Friday that based on studies, the spawning season of pelagic fishes covers June until September.

Idris said a three-month period is enough time to allow fish to spawn and increase in number.

Scientific research conducted by BFAR-Davao National Stock Assessment Program showed that small pelagic fish production has declined and has not been sufficient to meet the demand for fish in the region.

"There is what we call a maximum sustainable yield or MSY. Based on our research, Davao Gulf has already reached and exceeded the MSY and there was a decline in the catch of small pelagic fishes," Idris said.

Small pelagic fishes include mackerel locally known as karabalyas, hasa-hasa, buraw, lumahan and anduhan; big eyed scad species known as matambaka, atulay, tamrong and budlatan; and roundscap species locally known as galunggong, moro-moro, alumahan and burot-burot, among others.

The ban covers fishing activities that use bagnets and fishnets, both of which are common catching devices used by commercial fishing vessels. Fish cages and non-commercial fishing are not affected by the ban, Idris said.

"So far, there are 41 registered commercial fishing boats using ringnets, but those using bagnets remain unregistered," she added.

Idris said that commercial fishing is only allowed beyond the municipal waters, which are set at 15 kilometers.

To ensure the implementation of the ban, BFAR will deploy three patrol boats, as well as enlist the help of the Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.

The ban on commercial fishing in the Davao Gulf will be implemented every year, and will run from June 1 until August 31 by next year, she said.

Councilor Leo Avila, chair of the committee on environment, said that a higher harvest is expected once the ban has been lifted.

"Given the decline of fishery resources, there has to be a closed season in Davao Gulf. Expect that by the end of this year, we will be able to replenish the stock of small pelagic fishes," Avila said.

This is the first time the closing season has been implemented in the Davao region.

The closed season is pursuant to a joint administrative order by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior and Local Government, issued last May 15.

Those caught violating the order will be punished by an imprisonment of six months and one day to a maximum of six years. Violators will also be fined an amount of P6,000, forfeiture of catch, and cancellation of their fishing license.

The ban is the third in the country. A similar move was made previously by Bfar in Zamboanga City and the Visayan Sea to secure the spawning period of fishes in these areas. (Brent Harvey S. Jimenez-AdDU Intern)