Philippines reaps benefits of sardine conservation measuresBy Edwin Espejo Mar 11, 2013 7:19AM UTC
ZAMBOANGA CITY - Closing the waters in the Zamboanga peninsula and the Basilan straits during spawning season led to an increase in sardine catch last year, according to Philippines fisheries officials.
Fisheries bureau chief Asis Perez said the sardine catch nationwide increased by 90,000 metric tons or close to 30 percent in just a year of implementing one of the bolder conservation measures ever taken by the government to protect declining commercial fish stocks in the country.
“Initial results are very encouraging,” Perez told fisheries officials and reporters during the ceremonial lifting of the three-month ban on sardine fishing in Zamboanga over the weekend.
He said scientific studies will be expanded as the annual closure continues.
“We are looking at the scientific correlations of the closure to the 10 percent increase in local tuna catch and landings (also last year),” Perez further explained.
As a result, the bureau of fisheries and aquatic resources director said a similar conservation measure is now being implemented in Visayas.
“Luzon will follow this year,” Perez added.
The three-month closure of the southwestern Mindanao seas to sardine catching takes effect every December 1 to March 1 of the following year.
The Philippines produces close to 400,000 metric tons of sardines and herring-like species every year, with majority of the catch ending up in sardine canning factories.
Eleven of the country’s 12 sardine canning plants are located in the Zamboanga peninsula, among them is Permex, producer of MEGA sardine brands.
Manufacturers here also told fisheries officials that sardine deliveries to the canning plants in Zamboanga increased by 25 to 30 per cent last year, the first immediate season after the closure was first implemented in 2011.
Perez said neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia are impressed with the country’s success in conserving sardine stocks in Philippine waters and may adopt similar measures.
“We have common stocks with Malaysia and Indonesia,” Perez explained.
He said Zamboanga peninsula reported the highest compliance rate among the areas covered by the closure.
Perez later led the deployment of payaws or fish aggregating devices (FADs), together with local government and BFAR officials in Mindanao, off the coasts of Lamitan City in Basilan.
The country’s largest concentration of sardines is found in Zamboanga Peninsula, Sulu Sea and Basilan Strait, which incidentally are also along spawning grounds of yellowfin tuna and other tuna-like species.
In 2010, the Philippine government and manufacturers of sardine agreed to close the area to catching during the spawning season.
Sardines are high on the food chain of the highly-migratory tuna stocks.
Over the last decade however, sardine catches have steadily declined due to overfishing prompting the government to close the fishing grounds in southwestern Mindanao to sardine catching for three months.