The Philippines is considered the “center of marine biodiversity in the world” by the Global Marine Species Assessment of the World Conservation Union. The archipelago is brimming with marine life, but it is also straining to support a nation of more than 100 million people.
In a media briefing held in Quezon City last October 11, 2022, Oceana, an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, enumerated some of the major issues and challenges that continue affecting the country’s fishing industry.
Despite the internationally recognized biological significance, “we have not been very good stewards in ensuring our fish and marine resources and marine habitats they and we, all depend on to flourish.” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President of Oceana, in her opening statement.
Fisheries in the Philippines have been continuously plagued by overfishing, unabated illegal fishing activities, and lack of political will to fully implement fisheries laws and regulations, a lack of post-harvest facilities, and encroachment of commercial fishers into municipal waters, according to Oceana.
Dr. Wilfredo Campos, a fishery expert at the University of the Philippines Visayas who joined the briefing virtually reaffirmed the enumerated issues and connected them with the decline of the country’s fish stocks since the 1990s.
Fisherfolk leader, Ruperto Aleroza, President of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), reiterated the importance of using science to determine the capacity of the current fishing grounds and ensure the sustainability of the stocks. Another fisherfolk leader, Martha Cadano, from Victoria, Samar, raised a concern about the lack of postharvest, cold storage and ice-making facilities to ensure the quality of fish.
Both Atty. Ramos and Oceana legal and policy director Atty. Liza Eisma Osorio highlighted the problem of aggressive commercial fishing in municipal waters, a protected zone hosting coral reefs, seabed grass, and spawning grounds of young fish. Atty. Osorio said that there is an urgent need to fully implement the fishery laws and regulations to protect the municipal waters and the local fisherfolk. To date, only 50 percent have complied with the law requiring all registered and qualified commercial fishing vessels to install vessel monitoring measures (VMM) and electronic reporting system (ERS), added Atty. Ramos.
Atty. Rhea Yray-Frossard, Oceana campaign and research director, stated that the effective implementation of the science-based Fisheries Management Area (FMA) system established by the previous administration is the key to ensuring the sustainability of sardines and fisheries and providing municipal fisherfolk with a stable source of food and livelihood.
“Small fisherfolk are key to protecting, preserving and nurturing our oceans, but they have to be empowered and supported by the government,” said Daniel Ocampo, Oceana Senior Campaign Manager.