As sardine shortage looms, canners seek leeway in commercial fishing
Sardine canners are appealing to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to ease regulations on commercial fishing to avoid a shortfall in fish supply.
Canned Sardines Association of the Philippines executive director Francisco Buencamino asked the BFAR to convene a multiparty meeting, including local government units in coastal areas, to discuss the possibility of allowing commercial fishing boats to operate close to the shorelines covered by municipal waters.
According to Buencamino, who is also executive director of the Tuna Canners Association of the Philippines, sardines devour planktons which are, however, moving closer to the seashore and penetrating municipal waters.
Under Republic Act No. 8550, or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, local governments may enact an ordinance allowing small and medium commercial fishing vessels to operate within the 10.1 to 15-kilometer area from the shoreline in municipal waters.
“We will make sure that it will not affect the municipal fisherfolk,” Buencamino said. “We need to buy as much sardines as we can at this time from September to end of November.”
He said the canning industry would also buy the sardine catch of municipal fishers as it worked on building its inventory to sustain its operations.
“Fishing boats that supply us are saying their catch is only 20 to 40 percent compared [with output] last year,” Buencamino said.
While there is no shortage of canned sardines yet, he said he had earlier aired warnings in anticipation of tightening supply, given the meager fish catch from commercial fisherfolk who supply sardines to canners.
The closing of fishing season from Dec. 1 this year to Feb. 28 next year is also seen to add to supply constraints.
“We have only nine months in a year to allow us to build up the [supply] of about 200,000 to 250,000 metric tons of sardines needed for our operations,” he said.
Roberto Ballon of Gamay’ng Mangingisda sa Concepcion in Zamboanga said municipal fishers were prepared to meet the sardine requirements of canneries, but this would require logistics support and facilities, both in the production and harvest stages.
“We can catch sardines; just provide us the support that we need on how to catch [them],” Ballon said in Filipino.
—Jordeene B. Lagare INQ
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