A group of reef fish catchers and traders from southern Palawan has called for the suspension of the ongoing closed season policy for certain reef fish species being implemented by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).
“We respect the PCSD policy but our request is for them to adjust the closed season schedule. November is when college students enroll for the second semester and we have no enough income to send them back to school,” Roselito Macahipay, a reef-fish-for-food (RFF) catcher from Rizal town, told reporters Thursday, November 16.
Under the PCSD Administrative Order No. 15-2014, the five-month ban from November to March covers the catching and trading of Leopard Coral Trout or Red Suno (Plectropomus leopardus), Green Grouper or Loba (Epinephelus coioides), and Tiger Grouper or Lapung-baboy (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus).
Another five days of closed season (every two days before new moon, two days after new moon and one day during new moon every month) will also be implemented from April to October.
Originally, it was slated during the periods June 16 to August 31 and October 16 to December 15, but the policy, upon rounds of stakeholder consultations, was amended five months ago.
Macahipay’s group, consisting of catchers and traders from Rizal, Quezon, Brooke’s Pt. and Narra, proposed to schedule the closed season from the lean months of March to May instead.
PCSD Staff spokesman Jovic Fabello said the leaders of the group were given a chance to speak at a PCSD executive committee meeting earlier this week.
“Their contention is that they can’t put up reef fish cages in their towns unlike in the bays of Taytay and Coron,” he told Palawan News.
In the amended policy, caging has been allowed, giving the catchers and traders an opportunity to sell reef fish even during offseason as long as they are from the cage, not from the wild.
“With the Chinese New Year approaching, those from the northern Palawan can sell reef fish from December to January once we have inventoried their fish cages. However, those from the south have no fish cages since their respective locations do not suit the area requirements to put up one,” he said.
Various fisherfolk groups had previously appealed to junk the PCSD admin order, claiming it as an anti-poor policy being imposed without passing sufficient public consultation. In its supposed first year of implementation in June 2015, the PCSD decided to suspend the policy for a year.
Fabello said the PCSD will decide on the matter in its upcoming regular meeting on Nov. 27.
Meanwhile, the PCSD has acknowledged reports that some fish vendors at the city’s old public market are still selling fish species covered by the ban.
On Thursday morning, Palawan News went around the said market’s fish section and found vendors selling Leopard Coral Trout or Red Suno (Plectropomus leopardus), Green Grouper or Loba (Epinephelus coioides), and Tiger Grouper or Lapung-baboy (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus).
Fabello said they considered them only as “spillover,” caught in small volume through hook-and-line fishing. He said they are allowing it “for human consideration.”
“They were caught by small fishers and sold by vendors who probably don’t know about the policy,” he told Palawan News.
Aside from conducting an information drive in every town, he said their campaign has also been targeting fish vendors to make them aware of the closed season policy.
While acknowledging the difficulty of imposing the ban, Fabello said they are trying to closely monitor compliance of parties concerned.
“We admit that our budget isn’t enough to hire more enforcers. In that case, we really need to strategize by deputizing hundreds of volunteer wildlife enforcement officers, and to partner with other enforcement agencies,” he added.
Currently, Fabello said the enforcement team is focusing its effort at source and are deployed at airports and seaports to ensure violators trying to transport the commercial species in volume outside the province would be apprehended.
“We do have wildlife enforcers stationed in areas with many traders and catchers across Palawan, especially in Taytay and Coron in the north, and Rizal, Quezon and Bataraza in the south,” he added.