Sardines Are Vanishing in Samar and the Bicol Peninsula
Oceana on Friday, September 19, urged the government to prioritize and hasten the implementation of the National Sardine Management Plan amid the release of the results of Oceana’s study, “Developing the Sardine Management Plan for Fisheries Management Area 7,” which showed the decline of sardines in Bicol and Samar.
Approved by Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar on May 15, 2020, the National Sardine Management Plan aims to improve science-based indicators for the sustainability of fish stocks and distribution of benefits among sardine fisherfolk communities and strengthen science-based management for sustainable sardine fisheries by the end of 2025.
Subic Beach, Matnog, Bicol
“Many Filipinos depend on sardines not only for food but also for livelihood, making this one of the most important resources in achieving food security in the country. It is therefore imperative that the government safeguards our sardine species that are now on the verge of collapse,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President of Oceana.
“We strongly urge the implementation of the National Sardines Management Plan in Fisheries Management Areas to stop the dangerous decline of our sardine resource,” Ramos stressed.
In presenting Oceana’s assessment on the conditions of sardine stocks in Fisheries Management Area 7 fishing grounds off Bicol and Samar from February 2020 to March 2021, Dr. Wilfredo Campos of the University of the Philippines – Visayas, who spearheaded the study, warned of dire consequences because of overfishing in the area.
Sardine Stocks are Overfished
“It's very clear that the sardine stocks are overfished. And we should not wait until the limits, the targets are breached. Aside from monitoring, we need to think of measures to arrest further deterioration of the status of the stock,” he said.
“In other words, regardless of who is fishing, the total amount that is being extracted has to be regulated.
“Science has been telling us to lessen our fishing, our catch, and the extraction of marine resources. Science has been telling us that for a long, long time. That is very, very urgent. All the stakeholders should really sit down, and figure out ano the acceptable measures,” Campos added.
26-Percent Decline in Catch
Heavy fishing pressure and environmental changes over time have taken their toll on the country’s rich sardine resource. Data previously released by the Philippine Statistics Authority show that catch in bali (tamban) and fimbriata (lawlaw/tuloy) sardine species significantly declined from 442,045.75 metric tons in 2010 to 325,226.20 metric tons or 26.4 percent in 2019.
Oceana’s latest study monitored the fishing grounds of FMA 7, particularly from Balatan in Camarines Sur, Pio Duran in Albay, Monreal in Ticao Island, and the main station for fishing vessel operations in Bulan, Sorsogon. GPS trackers were installed on fishing vessels operating in the area and allowed the team to monitor fishing activities in FMA 7 over time. Through this, the team discovered that 60 percent of the total 60,000 metric tons caught in FMA 7 were from Bulan station.
Donsol, Sorsogon, Philippines (June 19, 2007): A fisherman pulls up his fishing net by the shore.
“More than three fourths of the catches in Bulan fall below the size of the first maturity. Many juveniles are caught in this area and we need to implement measures to reduce this by regulating the fishing effort – the number of vessels, the frequency of catches, and when they are allowed to operate,” Campos emphasized.
The recommendations made by Campos would be covered by the implementation of the National Sardine Management Plan.
“Maliliit ang kita ng mga mangingisda sapagkat wala sa tamang panahon o laki ang hinuhuli nilang sardinas, gamit ang maliliit na uri ng lambat.
“Maraming nasasayang o nabubulok dahil kulang ang suplay ng yelo o kaya kagamitang pang-preservation o storage facility,” said Bebito Matuguinas, a municipal fisherfolk representative of the Management Body of FMAs 7 and 10 from Kawayan, Biliran.
Oceana has been conducting workshops among the members of the Management Body of Fisheries Management Areas 7, 8, and 12.
School of Sardines in the Waters of Cebu
“As our scientists have said, the time to act on saving our dwindling sardine resource is now. It is crucial that the Management Board of sardine-rich Fisheries Management Area 7 considers the immediate integration and implementation of the National Sardine Management Plan. We need to act swiftly before our sardine resources deteriorate any further and it becomes even more difficult for these sardine species to recover,” said Ramos.
Oceana is dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk, and other stakeholders to restore the abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.