“We are doing this to protect our people,” said Atty. Asis Perez, National Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), who noted that 70% of the protein requirement of Filipinos comes from fish.
The two-day symposium, which is discussing the theme “The road to sustainable fisheries governance,” is the launching activity of the Philippine office of Oceana, the largest international organization focused exclusively on restoring the world’s oceans.
Dr. Mike Hirshfield, Oceana’s Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer, introduced Oceana to some 100 stakeholders from the government and fisheries sectors, the justice system, academia, NGOs & POs and the business community that attended the first day of the symposium.
Faster decline in fisheries
Oceana board member Dr. Daniel Pauly, who leads the “Sea Around Us Project” at the University of British Columbia, delivered the keynote address at the event.
He presented the results of a global study that indicated world fisheries catch is much higher than previously thought, and declining much faster than data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests.
In the Philippines, Dr. Pauly noted that much of the data from small-scale fishing is not included in the estimates for fisheries catch, even though these are also sold in the market.
He said that much of the data coming from governments and fed into the FAO database, which is the only source globally of fishery statistics, are "biased downward" and do not include harvest from activities such as reef gleaning and sports fishing.
From P10,000 to P10-M
In his opening speech at the symposium, Perez shared the government’s efforts in combating illegal, unregistered and unreported fishing since 2011.
He said the government has proposed raising the maximum penalty for serious fishery violations to P10 million, from a measly P10,000 in the past.
“There will be enough teeth in the law for violators to feel the pain,” Asis said.
Director Perez also announced that the government is hiring 778 new enforcers with plantilla positions, backed up by over 100 vessels and sufficient funds for fuel to go against illegal fishers.
He noted that 41% of the population in the fisheries sector is poor. He attributed this to lack of post-harvest facilities such as cold storage, processing of value-added products, and marketing support.
On November 24, the Philippine government will launch its targeted intervention program for the fisheries sector as part of its poverty alleviation measures, Perez announced.
In the Philippines, there are over 1.3 million small-scale fishers and an estimated eight million people who depend on fisheries.