KAPATAGAN, Lanao del Norte -- The Panguil Bay Development Council (PBDC) has announced on November 27 that Panguil Bay, the once rich fishing ground in the northwestern part of Mindanao, would soon spring back to its abundant state after decades of abuse and indiscriminate harvesting of its marine animals.
This as the PBDC, which is composed of local political officials and heads of government line agencies from Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao, declared that it successfully removed illegal fishing structures to realize the bay’s cleanup and rehabilitation.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that fishery resources of Paguil Bay have considerably declined in terms of catch rates and volume due to the unabated fishing activity – illegal and destructive fishing practices – particularly the use of filter nets, locally known as “Sanggab,” and dynamite fishing.
PBDC said the destruction of natural habitat of marine life where mangrove forests were converted to fishponds, the dumping of poisonous chemicals coming from fishponds, and the increasing human habitation along the shore of the bay, contributed to the decline.
Asis G. Perez, Department of Agriculture undersecretary for Fisheries and PBDC chair, said the success of their Panguil Bay campaign was primarily due to the exercise of political will among LGU officials determined to bring back the bay to its abundance.
“The people who should be given the recognition in this successful endeavor are no other than the local officials, the law enforcers like the police, the Coastguard, the government workers who unceasingly did their job until Panguil Bay has no more ‘sanggab’ and other illegal fishing structures,” Perez said.
In Tangub City area, which has the highest number of the illegal fishing structures, numbering more than 900 filter nets, the local government unit started on April 26, 2015 dismantling the illegal fishing gears and declared the city sanggab-free in September.
Tangub City Mayor Philip Tan who did not promise livelihood for the affected workers, said that his concern is for the rehabilitation of the bay.
“And true enough we are now enjoying an abundance of the supply of fish coming from the bay and this condition is an opportunity for the affected workers to fish legally for livelihood,” Tan said.
“Sanggab” is a cone-shaped mesh of fine nets that is placed and positioned against the current during high tide. It catches even the smallest fry, without escape.
PBDC was able to removed 2,339 sanggabs where 1,424 were removed voluntarily by the operators while 915 were forcefully removed.
The illegal structures have been in the bay for decades, because for the fisherfolk, sanggab is the most practical gear to fish in the area. BFAR estimated that a sanggab, 10 years ago, can easily catch and harvest about 200 kilos, especially of fish, crabs, and prawns.
The catch dwindled as the number of sanggab and other illegal gears increased. A sanggab before these were removed could hardly harvest a kilo of prawn.
PBDC identified the areas in the towns of Baroy, Tubod, Tambulig, Bonifacio, Aurora, Kolambugan and the cities of Ozamiz and Tangub where sanggabs operate and that which involve more than 1,200 workers.
To cushion the displacement of the 1,200 affected fishermen, the PBDC in a resolution approved that those engaged in the sanggab operation, particularly the workers, will be given an alternative livelihood.
BFAR has earmarked P16 million to fund the various livelihood programs for the affected workers.
Panguil Bay is a small but rich fishing ground that supports the livelihood of thousands of small-scale fishermen in northwest Mindanao.
Flanked by 10 municipalities and two cities belonging to three provinces – Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Occidental of Regions 9 and 10.
Over the years, Panguil Bay has been subjected to the divided governance among the municipalities, unregulated resource uses, and minimal interventions. The lack of holistic resource and environmental management program poses the challenge for the sustainability of this natural resource and the livelihood of the marginalized fisherfolk.
Panguil Bay is historically a rich fishing ground, particularly of the three main groups of fishery resources – finfish, mollusks and crustaceans (shrimps and crabs), which are the most commercially harvested.
“When over fishing and the use of illegal gears stop, it will only take four to six months and Panguil Bay’s fishery resource would again be in abundance,” said Visa Dimerin, BFAR Northern Mindanao regional director.