The Department of Agriculture last week announced plans to implement yet another closed fishing season for round scad or galunggong, to take effect in Palawan beginning November 1 and lasting for three months. This is a program that has been going on for the last five years and is being done in at least three of the country’s most productive regions for round scad fisheries, particularly in the Visayan Sea, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and Palawan.
Under the program, commercial fishers are to refrain from catching round scads during the 3-month period which is considered to be their reproduction season. The intention is to allow the fisheries stocks to replenish and ensure its sustainability.
This management strategy has proven to be useful, to the extent that it is a science-based approach to fisheries management. Monitoring has shown that fisheries productivity increased as a result of such a strategy. However, it also has a controversial aspect, as government opts that the shortage in fish supply had to be filled in by importing fish from neighboring countries, a solution that seemed ironic on its face.
The current situation is such that the implementation this year of another closed fishing season will underscore anew the scarcity of the current fisheries stocks to meet local demand. In the past years, such a gap represented somewhere around 50 percent of the current production of round scad and mackerel, which then had to be imported.
More significantly, this year’s ban will undoubtedly have a more forceful impact on food security, as the national economy reels from the raging pandemic and food security is a more daunting challenge. This only suggests that if this year’s closed fishing season is to be implemented, local government units and fisheries communities need to be amply prepared for adjustments and solutions to fill demand gaps.
Or perhaps more simply, canceling the moratorium at least for this year could be a forced solution, in light of the pandemic reality.
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