FISHERFOLK in Madridejos town on Bantayan Island are experiencing a decline in their catch.
Madridejos Mayor Romeo Villaceran attributed this to the stiff competition among fishermen in their waters. He said this increased competition involves not only local fishermen but also those coming from outside Cebu, leading to a depletion of available fish for catch.
Villaceran called on the Bureau of Fisheries of Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to intervene and help local fishermen in addressing this decline.
“It seems like there are many fishermen and yet the number of fish in the seas cannot meet the demand of these fishers,” he said in an interview with SunStar Cebu on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024.
He said currently, 80 percent of their population relies on fishing as their primary livelihood. Based on the 2020 census of the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are 42,039 living in the island municipality of Madridejos.
Villaceran noted that individuals from not only Madridejos but also from neighboring towns of Bantayan and Santa Fe, as well as those from Negros Island in Western Visayas and Masbate in the Bicol Region are sourcing fish from their waters.
He said fisherfolk before could bring home 80 to 120 kilos of fish per day, but now, they can only harvest four to five kilos.
“Although prices went up before they could produce 80 kilos and they sell each kilo at P25 to P30 per kilos, but now, they only produce four kilos but sell it for P200 each kilo,” he said.
He said that with the current situation, he urged the residents to venture into other livelihoods other than fishing, as they also encourage their children to finish their education and have more opportunities.
Villaceran urged BFAR to help them address this problem, but he also acknowledged that the agency already has existing programs, such as raising milkfish, to help the affected fisherfolks.
“Actually, there is a BFAR program that introduces the culturing of bangus or that they raise their bangus. In fact, it is already there in Bantayan [Island] that they are breeding fishes to produce fingerlings and distribute it to fisherfolk,” he said, adding that beneficiaries will build the fish cage themselves.
Based on the 2022 Performance of Agriculture and Fisheries report by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) 7 released last December, Central Visayas experienced the most substantial decline in fisheries output among all 16 regions in the country in 2022. PSA 7 revealed that the value of fisheries production plummeted in Central Visayas, dropping from P12.01 billion in 2021 to P7.492 billion in 2022, marking a significant 38.1 percent decrease.
Leopoldo Alfanta Jr., chief statistician of PSA 7, noted that Central Visayas recorded the highest decline in fisheries production, with Northern Mindanao following closely with a 32.4 percent reduction.
Neil Andrew Menjares, the supervisor of the Development Research Division at National Economic and Development Authority 7, attributed the decline in fisheries production value in 2022 to the prolonged impact of Typhoon Odette (Rai).
Despite occurring on Dec. 16, 2021, Menjares said the effects of the typhoon persisted into 2022, with fishermen still grappling with the aftermath.
In addition to the typhoon, Laila Bragat, information officer at BFAR7, highlighted that fishermen were also adversely affected by rising fuel costs and climate change.
She elaborated on the impact of constant changes in weather patterns, including temperature fluctuations, shifts in ocean currents, and sea level variations, which have the potential to disrupt fish distribution and abundance.