Philippines promises fishery reforms by 2022

The Philippines is partnering with the conservation group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to reform fishery management policy and is investing in enforcement, the government announced at the Our Ocean conference in Malta earlier this month.

The country committed to establish reforms for major commercial fisheries by 2022.

“Healthy fisheries are critical to the well-being of all Filipinos, and we are committed to making fishing sustainable nationwide,” Eduardo Gongona, undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture for Fisheries, said in a statement. “By building our policy reforms on science and investing in reliable enforcement, we can ensure healthy fisheries for the future.”

More than five million Filipinos make a living from fishing, while millions more rely on it for a food source. Ninety percent of fish caught in the Philippines is consumed locally.

But 10 of the country’s 13 major fishing grounds are overfished, according to EDF, with some facing collapse if reforms aren’t implemented. A fishery collapse would devastate fishing families, who are already poorer than the rest of the Filipino population. Without changes, the Philippines will have to rely on other countries for seafood by 2040, EDF says.

EDF promotes fishery management mechanisms in which fishermen have an ownership stake in fisheries but must adhere to sustainable catch limits. Such fishing practices in the Philippines could quadruple fish populations and feed an additional 25 million people by 2050, with fishing profits rising 500 percent, EDF says. Most fisheries could be healthy within a decade.

The Philippines is setting “an example for the region and the rest of the world for how to build policies that improve food security and provide economic development, while at the same time recovering fisheries, John Mimikakis, the vice president for Asia for EDF’s Oceans program, said in the statement.

High-level officials have already indicated willingness to pursue reforms. President Rodrigo Duterte declared September as the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month.

Meanwhile, law enforcement in Tanon Strait was recently bolstered after regulators required all commercial fishing vessels to have vessel monitoring measures. A special prosecutor from the Department Justice was designated to handle fisheries and conservation cases in the Strait.

The Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is working with local government officials to protect marine enclaves such as the Visayan Sea. The bureau has pledged to make the Visayan Sea the first fisheries management area in the country.

“The Visayan Sea is the country’s third-largest producer of wild fish – but stocks have already declined by 70 percent from 1948 to 2016. Because it’s a hotbed for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, we must work together to protect and conserve the area. Many fishers rely on it for life,” Remia Apari, the bureau’s Western Visayas director, said in a statement.


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