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Fishing to be banned on Burias Strait starting December

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala

MANILA, Philippines—After imposing a fishing moratorium that successfully replenished sardine stocks off the Zamboanga Peninsula last year, the Department of Agriculture is to close another major fishing ground in the country for three months starting in December to replenish sardine and tuna stocks.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is to close the Burias Strait in Bicol to fishing from December 2012 to February 2013.

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Burias Strait—the body of water between the western coasts of the provinces of Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon and the island of Burias—is a major source of sardines, which are canned for both the domestic and export markets.

“Tunas eat sardines. The more sardines we have, the greater the chances of having more tuna in our waters,” Alcala said in a recent media interview.

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The temporary closure of Burias Strait to fishing will allow mature sardines and other fish species to breed freely. Some of the juvenile fish would spread out to other areas outside the protected zone, which could mean more fishes in the waters and possibly more catches for fisherfolks.

Alcala said the BFAR used DNA technology on sardines species in waters off the Zamboanga Peninsula to check the success of last year’s closure. BFAR Director Asis Perez said their study so far showed that the Philippines has “four distinct stocks of sardines.” These are found in the seas off Zamboanga Peninsula and Palawan, the Visayan Sea and Bicol, Davao Gulf, and Batanes.

“So far, we have protected the one in Zamboanga,” Perez said. The temporary ban on sardines fishing in the Mindanao province has replenished stocks in the waters off southern Palawan, he said.

“When you protect the fisheries in Zamboanga, you protect the fisheries in Palawan,” Perez said.

The results from Zamboanga Peninsula follow corroborate the findings of a major international study on marine protected areas, which indicate  that establishing marine sanctuaries or no-take fishing zones can help restock exploited fish populations on nearby reefs.

Researchers from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University in Australia said marine protected areas, or MPAs, help replenish fish stocks in areas outside the sanctuaries.

“Using DNA fingerprinting technology, we now can clearly show that the benefits of MPAs spread beyond reserve boundaries, providing a baby bonus to fisheries,” said Geoff Jones, the marine scientist who led the study.

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Using DNA samples, the team of scientists tracked the movements of juvenile coral trout and stripey snappers larvae from MPAs in the Keppel island group in Australia.  According to the study, about 65 percent of the baby fish swam out of the MPA and settled in nearby areas open to fishing.

Most of the juveniles were found within one to five kilometres of reserves but a significant proportion dispersed 10 kilometres or more to find  new homes.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Burias Strait, Business, fisheries, News, Sardines
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