The fate of our fish

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos October 16,2016 - 09:31 PM

We all agree that fish is a very important source of food for us and marine resources. It is a major provider of livelihood and economic and recreational opportunities for millions, apart from its nutritional benefits.

But our fisheries face tremendous challenges. The fish population is in rapid decline due to many factors — illegal fishing, habitat destruction, and weak enforcement of our laws, among many others.

Considering that humanity is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, it is smart to conserve, protect and manage our fisheries in a sustainable and responsible manner for the present and future generations. There is a compelling need for citizens and authorities alike to work together and act on solutions to bring back the state of abundance that many wrongly thought would last forever.

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which was adopted by the Food And Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1995 might as well be a mantra for all, especially by the local government units which are given the right and the responsibilities over our municipal waters. “The Code sets out principles and international standards of behavior for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity.”

These principles include responsible fishing, prevention of overfishing and excess fishing capacity, science-based conservation and management decision-making and “applying precautionary approach widely to conservation, management and exploitation of living aquatic resources in order to protect them and preserve the aquatic environment, taking account of the best scientific evidence available. The absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take measures to conserve target species, associated or dependent species and non-target species and their environment.”

As an illustration, in enacting a local ordinance allowing commercial fishing in municipal waters from 10.1 kilometers onward, the local government unit should not only comply with the enumerated requirements of the Fisheries Code, as amended, but should prove that said commercial fishing activity will not impact the carrying capacity of their waters and prove detrimental to the subsistence and small-scale fisherfolk.
Our amended Fisheries Code requires science-based management interventions that our government agencies like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the LGUs must comply.

Food security and poverty alleviation are closely linked to how we manage our fisheries. For a country which is the number 11 fish producer in the world, it is ironic that our fisherfolk are the poorest of the poor.

Beginning today until October 21, our nation celebrates Fisheries Conservation Week. This important event is led by the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources every year. This year, activities are focused on “awakening the consciousness of the public and encouraging their active participation in promoting fisheries resource protection and conservation.”

The 2016 theme “Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan Tungo sa Mas Masiglang Pangisdaan” will highlight one of the Department’s programs for the fisheries sector, the Annual Awards for Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol will lead the program’s launching in Batangas.
Hats off to Secretary Piñol, BFAR Director Gongona and DA for setting relevant criteria for the cleanest coastal communities.

These standards are: 1) absence of illegal fishing; 2) observance of closed season; 3) well-protected marine sanctuary; 4) garbage-free coastal area; and 5) sustained mangrove protection and rehabilitation program. This is the first ever innovative archipelago-wide awards and reveals the political will and determination by our authorities to conserve and protect our natural life support systems, use of sustainable fisheries management interventions and prevent and deter illegal fishing in our waters.

BFAR region 7 under Director Andres Bojos opens in Cebu City today the week-long celebration with a program attended by representatives from the public and private sectors involved in the sustainable development of our fisheries sector.

The officials, staff and partners had a Fun-Run yesterday to kick-off the observance of the Fisheries Conservation Week.
Apart from a strong emphasis on enforcement, the continuation by DA-BFAR of the policy of declaring closed season for certain species of fish is likewise most welcome as this will boost the goal of restoring abundance of our fisheries and promotes food security.

Hopefully, all of our coastal local government units shall fully perform their mandates of protecting the fisheries and livelihoods of their constituents by implementing our environmental laws.

The fate of the fish is dependent to a certain extent in our hands. We are confident that the continuing strong collaboration among stakeholders to conserve and manage well our fisheries and ecosystems will benefit everyone, especially our small fisherfolk, and contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of our people.

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TAGS: economic, economy, ecosystem, environment, fish, fisheries, food, illegal fishing, livelihood, management, marine life, marine resources, nutrition, United Nations

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