The Philippines has seen a significant increase in its sardine production, a spike from 330,000 metric tons in 2019 to 396,000 metric tons in 2020, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The increase was seen as an impact of the closed fishing season and parts of stakeholders played in major fishing grounds.
In a virtual presser of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Rafael Ramiscal of BFAR-Capture Fisheries Division said the pandemic also affected the distribution and marketing of the fish due to movement restrictions and checkpoints.
“Last year, nagsimula ang pandemic, we did increase production of sardines, significantly. This will say na hindi masyado naapektuhan in terms of produce. My understanding is ang nagiging problema in some areas for other fishers ay ‘yong distribution, marketing ng kanilang nahuli. Dahil during the pandemic, there were checkpoints and limitations on the movement of trade and transport. Ito ay nakaapekto (sa) produce ng ating pangingisda,” Ramiscal said.
He added that the growth can be attributed not only to the National Sardines Management Plan, a five-year plan for the fishing industry of the bureau alone, but also to the efforts done in major fishing grounds.
As stated in the management plan, the six major fishing grounds of sardines in the country are located in Ragay Gulf-Ticao Pass-San Bernardino Strait, Bohol Sea, East Sulu Sea/Sulu Archipelagic Waters, Visayan Sea, Moro Gulf-Illana Bay, and Sibuguey Bay.
“I would like also to commend ‘yong what is being done sa major fishing grounds natin sa sardines, specifically sa Zamboanga. Ang Zamboanga, they are producing around 60 percent for the total sardines production ng Pilipinas. Pero kung titingnan mo ‘yong value sardines, ito ‘yong material na ginagamit sa canned sardines, they are producing more than 70 percent of the total country production,” he said.
“They are sustaining the closed fishing season during December 1 until March 1 every year. We would like to think na itong closure is been a factor in the increase of the production, as well. Meron din studies na nagsasabi na may positive na impact ang closed fishing season doon sa sardines. Very commendable siguro in terms how the stakeholders, lalo na ‘yong industries from that part of the country, they are very cooperative and very helpful in maintaining such program,” he added.
Ramiscal said that the 10 percent reduction goal in juvenile catch indicated in National Sardines Management Plan 2020-2025 will help to improve the biomass and record an increase in sardines’ population.
The management plan involves different stakeholders in crafting policies and ways to implement such as academe, fisherfolk, and owners of fishing vessels so the responsibility will not be shouldered alone by the government, he explained.
“If we are going to reduce catching of juveniles as well as improving the biomass. Doon lang tayo pwede mag-increase. Ang population indicators sa sardines ay almost in the red, kumbaga nasa level na tayo na hindi dapat mapunta. It’s just the right time na i-manage natin kasi there are indications na papunta tayo sa red basically,” he said.
“Ang ating plano, tinatawag namin na ecosystem approach to fisheries management kung saan binabalanse ang pangangailangan ng tao doon sa pananatili o pag-sustain natin sa ating resources. It’s a balancing act on how we are going to utilize ‘yong resources natin to the needs of the people,” he added.
Ramiscal said sardines constitute about 15 to 17 percent of the total population of the capture fisheries, following the large population of skipjack and yellowfin tuna. The production of capture fisheries hits an annual average of 2.2 million metric tons, while the aquaculture is at 2.3 million metric tons, wherein around 65 percent of it comes from the seaweeds and only more or less 800,000 metric tons come from finfish like bangus and tilapia for food consumption.