International marine protection organization, Oceana, calls on Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Francis Tiu Laurel, Jr. to prioritize in his administration’s 8-point agenda the full implementation of the Fisheries Code, as amended (Republic Act 10654), upholding science-based fisheries governance, transparency, and artisanal fisherfolk participation.

“Considering that Secretary Laurel is the first Agriculture Secretary, in recent years, to have come from the fisheries sector, we expect him to understand, more than anybody, that increasing fisheries production requires protection of our already overexploited, and rapidly declining fish stocks due to overfishing and rampant illegal fishing in our municipal waters. As somebody coming from the sector, Secretary Laurel knows that an evidence-based fisheries management backed by data will address the worsening conditions of our once-rich fishing grounds. Ending decades of inequity for fisherfolks who are consistently among the poorest in our society is a good promise, but we need to fully implement programs such as no-nonsense implementation of vessel monitoring requirement for all commercial fishing vessels and accountability for those violating our fisheries laws and regulations – these will truly improve the income and well-being of our fisherfolk, both from the municipal and commercial sector, ” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President.

Oceana urges Laurel to hold regular dialogue with stakeholders among the artisanal and municipal fisherfolk sector and civil society organizations to ensure that the government’s programs and projects are relevant to the communities’ needs. The group said the small-scale fishers and their families suffer the most from the losses arising from the destructive impact of extreme weather conditions climate change and which have aggravated the impacts of destruction of our fisheries and marine habitats.

Ramos said the building of post-harvest and value-adding facilities and providing transportation and market support to fisherfolk will help immensely in reducing losses due to spoilage when there is abundance of fish in their areas.

“To restore our fish stocks, the BFAR under Secretary Laurel’s leadership should stop illegal entry of commercial fishing vessels in the municipal water by implementing fully vessel monitoring measures and the science-based fisheries management plan of Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) throughout the country,” added Ramos.

San Isidro, Northern Samar Mayor Ferdinand Avila emphasizes the importance of implementing the National Sardines Management Plan and shared their intent to pass local policy instruments in the six towns of the province (San Isidro, San Antonio, Capul, San Vicente, Allen, and Victoria) that are dependent on sardines for their livelihood.
These local government units banded together and committed to help one another through their local government alliance – the San Bernardino Strait Local Government Alliance in Northern Samar (SABELANS).

“Our artisanal fisherfolk depend on sardines catch for their food and livelihood. The plan includes, not only the enforcement of catch control, but also the provision of post-harvest facilities and transportation and market access so our fisherfolk gain additional income not only from a fair selling price of their catch but in adding value to their fresh fish catch through processing,” added Avila.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued an Executive Order through the Executive Secretary in June 2023, ordering the BFAR and the National Telecommunications Commission to implement FAO 266.

According to Oceana, the last update they got from BFAR showed that only 70% of commercial fishing vessels have been installed with vessel monitoring device, as of November 2023. (PR)