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Save the small but mighty sardines

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos April 02,2017 - 09:11 PM

Atty. Gloria Ramos

Atty. Gloria Ramos

Jose Santino Bunachita’s article, “Basura Mo, Sardinas Ko”, in yesterday’s issue of Cebu Daily News, was quite interesting. It highlighted the innovative way by which the Cebu City government is dealing with the huge waste challenge it faces, and had to deal with, for decades already.

Instead of the stick, the program called “Basura Mo, Sardinas Ko” uses the rewards system to draw in the support of, and eventually perhaps ownership by the residents. According to Mr. Bunachita, “Under the program, a resident gets two cans of sardines for every sack of garbage and one can for a smaller sando bag, even if these are not segregated.” The city government was reported to have bought 3,508 cartons of sardines with a budget of P4.4 million to implement the program starting March.

The result has been very encouraging. The villages are cleaner. There is greater cooperation from the residents in removing and managing the used materials. In the past, the discards would be burned or thrown carelessly into the river, both prohibited under the law as they pollute the air and our waterways, apart from being harmful to our health and our planet.

While the program needs fine-tuning, such as instilling the mindset of segregation and giving added value to composting the biodegradable materials, as required by RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, it has a high probability of success as it creatively helps address the hunger issue.

Why sardines? Why not? It is nutritious, affordable and convenient. Canned sardines are always the food of first resort when disasters hit.

Sardines are terribly underestimated. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and can supply 75% of our daily recommended phosphorus needed to have healthy bones and teeth.

The sardines sector provides revenues for our fishers, and jobs as small-scale entrepreneurs in the dried and smoked fish industry, and factory workers in the canning and bottling sectors.

“Though they might be pint-sized, sardines and other ‘forage’ fish play mammoth roles in marine ecosystems from Peru to the Philippines. Sardines are the basis for ocean food chains that support giants like whales, seals and sharks. They’re also a vital source of healthy, affordable protein for communities around the world.” (

But, overfishing, as the number one problem in the country, has not spared our sardines industry. In a presentation during last week’s launch of the “Sagip Sardinas” (Save the Sardines) campaign by BFAR and Oceana, data showed that Visayan Seas used to be the number one producer of sardines, but the fish populations have severely dropped. Thus, closed seasons based on spawning cycles for commercial sardines have been implemented in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Visayan Sea, plus part of the Tañon Strait.

It is timely that last week, the Agriculture Undersecretary and BFAR National Director, Commodore (ret.) Eduardo Gongona brought to the attention of all stakeholders the importance of being responsible stewards in protecting one of the most valuable marine resources especially for us, Filipinos — the sardines.

He underscored that sardines are “an economically vital fish species to thousands of Filipinos. Over the last five years and according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the sardines industry has yielded an average volume of 355 thousand metric tons, generating an average value of 10.45 billion pesos.”

It is an important source of livelihood to our fisherfolk. According to Undersecretary Gongona, “there are over 800,000 fisherfolk engaged in capture fishing. That is nearly half of the 1.7 million registered fisherfolk across the country, almost a million people dependent on sardines and other fish for their everyday living.”

He added that “sardines are among if not the most accessible source of protein, considering that the fish can be bought at an average price of only 50 to 90 pesos per kilo. It has become a staple part of our diet and culture, with Filipinos having an average consumption of 2.6 grams per day or 0.9 kilograms a year. Certainly, with the affordability and abundance of the sardine population, the sardine industry is one of the fisheries subsectors that can help us achieve our food security goals. Considering the innumerable benefits we reap from this remarkable fish resource, it is only fitting that we work to ensure that the sardine population are properly managed and protected.”

While government is taking steps to protect this very valuable resources, such as “the relentless enforcement of fishery laws and regulations, observance of closed seasons and improvement of value-adding technologies for sardines along with the enhancement of post-harvest facilities and market linkages for our subsistence fishers”, we look forward to the eventual crafting of the holistic road map for our sardines industry to be viable and sustainable. This refers to the National Sardines Management Plan which BFAR Technical Working Group, Oceana, Environmental Defense Fund and other members are working on. After a series of public consultations involving all stakeholders, it is targeted to be launched in October during the Fish Conservation Week.

Undersecretary Gongona speaks for all of us when he said that “this Sardine Management Plan will be an important milestone not only in so far as sardine is concerned but also in how we, as a society of diverse backgrounds, interests and advocacies, approach the protection and conservation of a precious marine resource.”

Let’s save our small but mighty sardines.

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TAGS: government, management, Mighty, sardines, save, small

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