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Authorities: 10 Out Of 13 Philippine Fishing Grounds Overfished

Ten out of the country’s 13 major fishing grounds are overfished, resulting in big declines in fishing production, officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) disclosed yesterday.

BFAR Director Asis Perez said most of the overfishing happens in the Visayas. Other heavily exploited grounds are Lingayen Gulf, northern Zambales, Camotes Sea, Honda Bay, Babuyan Channel, Lagonoy Gulf, Sorsogon Bay, Hinatuan and Dinagay Bay and Davao Gulf.

Perez said fishing production has dramatically declined for the past years and the only way to solve shortages is to allow importation.

“The drop in fish production resulted from the country’s destructive fishing methods and overfishing,” Perez said.

BFAR reported that the population and size of small pelagic fish species such as sardines, galunggong (scad) and matambaka (ox-eye scad) “are dwindling due to overfishing.”

BFAR Assistant Director Benjamin Tabios said that “imported” tuna used by local canneries come from companies set up in Papua New Guinea, but are owned by Filipinos and manned by Filipinos.

“As these are considered PNG fishing vessels, these catches are considered imports even though the beneficial owners are Filipinos and the crew of these fishing vessels are Filipinos,” said Tabios.

The latest available data from BFAR indicate that the Philippines imported 860,000 metric tons of fish and fish products in 2011. Perez also said there are instances of fish smuggling, where galunggong and sardines are illegally brought in from China and Taiwan.

To sustain fish output, the government has declared such measures as proclaiming “closed seasons and doing away with destructive fishing methods,” said Perez.

He said that decline in fish production was monitored in the 1990’s.

“In fact if you look at government projects, there were efforts to wean away fisherfolk from fishing, preparing them for other jobs, alternative livelihood, to reduce overfishing,” he said.

“What we are doing now is managing our resources and one of them is observing open and close seasons,” he said.

In the last three years, the fisheries subsector has been recording declining catches.

The fishery sector posted a decline of 0.04 percent in 2012 with 4.85 million metric tons produced compared to the previous year.

In 2011, the sector also experienced a drop of 3.8 percent with 4.98 million metric tons while it also fell by 1.7 percent in 2010.

Fish accounts for 80 percent of the animal protein intake of Filipinos, with per capita consumption of 28 kilos.