Posted by: Jimely Flores | January 18, 2018

Covered Mango Fruits

Everytime I travel around Negros Oriental, I see mango trees decorated with nicely made newspaper envelopes. Being a farmer’s daughter, I know those are to protect the young fruits against insects and bugs but what engages my interest is how beautifully and meticulously the covers were done. Its even amazing that even the hardest-reached tip of the branches are beatifully made. But because most of those past travels were with groups of people, I never had the chance to ask, until now that the car is all by myself with a very engaging conversable nice driver. 

It turn out those mangoes were wrapped using tall thin stairs made from light materials probably bamboos. Usually those doing those beatiful jobs, are thin and nimble workers engaged by the contractor in the business of making mangoes bear fruit and flowers. The contractor in mutual agreement with the mango tree owner, is incharge of the entire job of making the tree financially fruitful. The owner will just take its 1/4 part of the net income (either in fruit or in cash) at the end of the harvest. 

I just thought how labor intensive it could be and yet during the peak season, the markets are flooded with mangoes that prices could go as low as 15.00 philippine pesos a kilo, a definite loss to the farmers. One of the disadvantages of natural farming practice in a market-ruled society. A definite misalign of cultures that policy makers and advocates should look upon with critical eyes and mind. 

I am advocating price floor policy in all agricultural and fisheries products  at the producers level and let go of the suggested retail price policy at the consumers level. This is the only way to solve the problem of inequitability.

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Posted by: Jimely Flores | January 3, 2018

Thankful and Touched

Tis wonderful end and start of the year. I am so blessed with the people physically around me everyday and family members who are faraway but whose caring spirits are always with me. 

I am very grateful to all the blessings, friends and co-workers whose thoughts and kindness touched me to core. Thank you so much and in humility I pray that these friends will be blessed more and more and the protector wings of the Universe be upon them.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | November 21, 2017

On Reference Points: is “e-value” the right one? Maybe not.

It came as a shock to hear that “e-values” are being pushed as Reference Points for the management of Philippines’ fisheries resources. Reference Point for fisheries management should be tangible, understood by all concerns and should be biologically, ecologically, socially or economically sound and realistic. In advance countries where reference points had been used for fisheries management, reference points could either biomass or stock abundance, level of fishing effort to maintain healthy biomass and/or optimum economic yield that is still grounded to the status of the stocks underwater. For a Reference Point to be useful, it should always be directly hinged to the status of the stocks. 

Also there should be Performance Indicators related to how the harvest control measures are succesful in maintaining the established Reference Points. Performance indicators could be catch trends, market prices and trends, or exploitation rate or its empirical equivalent the “e-values.” The weakness of an “e-value” even as a performance indicator is, it could not be a predictive indicator, it is an after-event proof – sort of a post-mortem fact. When the result comes, it is already late, the policy it creates are reactive while we need a predictive indicator. 

The reason of some that the e-value is the only level of capacity the science workers could do is an insult to the regional NSAPs. They are better off than just that, they just need better guidance, their central leaders just need to open up the gate of collaboration. 

I am happy to learn of the developments. Finally NFRDI is opening their doors to other thoughts, other ideas, other experts whose only intention is to help. Thank you for the ray of hope. Change is indeed dawning.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | November 21, 2017

    Flaws of the closed fishing season Philippines style

Closed fishing is among the already proven and tested regulatory measures for fisheries management thus it is not a new idea. Then how could it be that the policy is still wrong? For a tools of policies to be efficient, really has to consider its basic science, economic and social environment and even governance competence of the stakeholders. Without considering those basic truths, policies could look very perfect on paper but will never be implementable and effective.

For this specific closed fishing season policy in the Philippines, the flaws are in the facts that:

1. The species are slightly migratory (not as highly as the tunas though), focal areas of spawning changes from time to time depending on many natural and anthropogenic factors. A fixed area and season may not be the best option even for a reason of easier policy making processes. Ways forward is to evaluate the policy. Evaluation should be hinged on the biological traits of the species and ecological processes around the species, taking into consideration the social and economic direct and indirect impact of the policy. 

2. The existing closed fishing policy is not genuinely solving the problem of overfishing. It is just a temporary solution – very much akin to patching a salonpass in a painful area with the main problem is actually osteoporosis. The overfishing problem due to the basic “race to fish, tragedy of the common” still happens immediately after the closing. In essence defying the very main purpose of the closing.

3. Are the months and the place identified are actually the most significant area to be protected. Why is it that data before the policy indicated that those months are also the lean season in that specific area (Figure 1)? That the perception of “successful compliance and law enforcement” is not genuinely true, that during that season and in that specific area, catch and thus fishing is historically low as most are shifting to different greener part of the fishing ground? Did we look closely to the data and did we really listen to other people’s ideas. I know few had offered better ideas but popularity won. But numbers never lie.

Data source: Dacanay, J. 2009. Sustainability of the sardine industry in Zamboanga: a bioeconomic approach

4.. The race to fish immediately after the closed fishing season depressed the market price, creating market distortion. The argument of a successful closed fishing season due to increase in fish storages is wrong. The increase is not due to increase fish abundance in the stocks but is just a temporary abundance due to the temporary decrease of fishing effort.

5. The closed fishing season did not consider the status of the stocks, the biological traits of the stocks, the species biological response to the environment – in short it is not based on facts and the “precautionary principle” was not even correctly applied.

Is it too late? No, the industry and BFAR need only to listen to the weaker voice of reason, that from the fisheries scientists, and work together for a more science-based policies. 

Posted by: Jimely Flores | November 18, 2017

Gifts of Technology: washing and drying machines

As a farm lass I grew up washing my clothes in the rivers using detergent bars and “laundry bat [:)] – a piece of wood used to pound the clothes for faster and efficient removal of soil and dirts. Since my family could only afford very few sets of clothes for me, I needed to wash my soiled clothes immediately hoping the sun and the wind will be strong enough to dry them soon for my daily changed.

Nowadays, in almost all corners in the city, the do it yourself laundry services are sprouting like mushrooms. Being used to a small number of clothings, it seemed to work wonderfully for me. Unlike my younger days, I do not need to be anxious of having no sun and no strong winds to quickly dry my clothes. Nowadays, I only wait for an hour at most and I can re-use the same clothes I just taken off before going to the laundry nooks. Its really fantastic for me.

So things may have changed but the basic truths do not – simple life, simple wants could also be the path to a great and fulfilling life. Thanks to the gifts of technology, washing and drying my clothes become so much easier. Cheaper also as I do not need to buy many sets of clothing leaving enough some of my small income to buy me food.

Is the present policy of closed fishing season in Zamboanga another story of a policy not based on right science or rather very little science? Yes!

Biological and ecological arguments:

1. Sardines are highly mobile geographically, their spawning grounds is not limited to a very small/narrow space. It changes over time as they are highly affected by changes in environmental parameters. Fixed small area and months is therefore not so effective. It should be timely assessed to pinpoint exact time and season of spawning.

2. Studies show an already overfished population is not so easy to recover even with the sardines which are known to be reproductively prolific. The small pelagics had been declared overfished since the 1980’s. With the present closed fishing policy, there is NO control whatsoever in fishing effort and yield after the closed fishing months. Common sense, realities and data are showing there is a RACE TO FISH immediately after the closed fishing months. This truth is even coming from the fans of the policy saying that CPUE is significantly increasing after the first three months without looking at the more significant decreasing trend for the remaining months. Practically removing everything during the fishing season, that very few sardines is left behind to spawn for the next year, make the existing closed fishing season policy not really efficient for its purpose.

3. The really relevant stage of sardines life cycle “the juveniles” is given no attention at all. Rampant growth overfishing is happening as is obvious in the many dried, canned, bottled and smoked sardines products in the country.

Social and Economic

1. Because of the RACE TO FISH immediately after the closed fishing months, a glut of sardines supply happens and prices at fishers-gate decreased to as low as 5.00 pesos per kilo. So the fishers are still losing. BUT those with capital put up storages and canneries increased operation time. This way only the capitalists are winning. Where is social and economic equities then? A perfect example of the poor fishers remaining poor, the moneyed capitalists owning fish storages and processing plants are earning a lot and the poor fisheries resources continue to be overfished. A perfect distortion of equitable distribution and market forces.

Solutions need to be enacted soon before we end up with nothing.

1. NFRDI to be genuinely transparent and open to other science capacities. Science is a rigorous process of check and review. Your data are people’s data too. You owe it to taxpayer’s to show truthful and critical analyses.

2. Review the existing rules of the closed fishing season policy. Look at data, numbers and real trends, and give more decision-making weights to real science before the citizen’s science. The policy as it is right now might not really useful unless added with other provisions like limit in catch, limit in effort and/or minimum size of fish. Or we could aim for the most ideal, look at the real biomass underwater, technology is just so advance and cheaper these days that there is no reason for us not to look not to use the right science.

3. Stakeholders especially the NGOs and scientists to practice critical analyses. Stop the popularity contest and the emotional drama based sceneries. Scientists your informed opinion is hardly heard, make it louder please. NGOs, its your role to amplify the voice of reason, let your reasons be based on truth.

4. BFAR to continue on their mandate to manage fisheries resources based on science. Continue the SOPHIL-stiffled crafting of the Management Framework for Sardines. Your accountability is for the nation not SOPHIL-wide.

5. The industry to also listen to other voices aside from their “representative.” There are better minds around, people who devoted their times to study data without being paid to say yes. Nobody owns the idea of closed season. It has been a fisheries management measure identified since time immemorial. It is not yours to claim. Anyway, if its inefficient as it is, what is there to be proud of?

Posted by: Jimely Flores | November 15, 2017

Closed fishing months start in Visayan Sea

Today is the start of the closed fishing months for the Visayan Sea. This seasonal closed fishing will end on February 15, 2018. During the closed fishing months, it is prohibited to fish sardines and mackerels in the area indicated by the figure below (lifted from the presentation of Bayate et al. 2016).

Areas covered by the closed fishing season (FAO 167-3). Lifted from the presentation of Bayate, D., S. Mesa, et al. 2016 as presented by Ms. Sheryll Mesa.

Supposedly as per exact wordings of the law “all types of fishing operation catching mackerels and sardines are prohibited to fish from the 15th of November to the 15th of February. However, the BFAR is only imposing it to the commercial fishing sector (commercial fisheries sector as those using fishing boats of sizes 3.1 gross tons and above).

The impact of the law in the abundance of protected fishes remains to be proven by data and number trends, mere words of mouth without proper analysis could be misleading. Preliminary data are showing confusing trends, even with the studies of the National Stock Assessment Program by Region 6. There is definitely a need to further look at the data and review on whether the time, the place and even the policy itself is indeed the most ideal scheme to sustain the resources for fisheries.

There is also a need to review the economic and social impact of the closed fishing season implemented. Experience showed that the Zamboanga closed fishing season creates so much distortion in the economic cycle and in the equitable distribution of the resources favoring mostly the big scale players in the industry while the small scale further suffer.

In essence, we need to be critical thinkers in managing our resources, relying solely in one policy such as the closed fishing season, Philippine-style to solve all of our problems is counterproductive. There are more tools out there that could better fit the heritage, culture, economy and capacity of the Filipinos.

 

Posted by: Jimely Flores | November 14, 2017

Blue swimming crab Management Plan 

Last 2013, through the leadership of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the first management plan for a fisheries resource was enacted – that is the National Management Plan for the Blue swimming crab, Portunus pelagicus. In the Plan, it was stipulated that a review is to happen after 5 years of implementation.

Amazingly and kudos to the leadership of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Plan is now being reviewed and on time as scheduled within the Plan.

Some of the important provisions that needs to be reviewed at are:

1. Effectivity of the so called “lying in” cages. The lying in cages Whether it is really effective or just a waste of resources. Studies in the past showed hatching success of eggs decreases as the level of stress increases for the BSC spawner. Berried crabs caught by entangling are either near death or had udergone a stress level that already compromised the viability of the eggs hatching success rate.

2. Deeper analysis on the reasons and nuances behind non-compliance to minimum size. “Weak law enforcement” and no “political will” are the common given reasons. But why?

3. Ecosystem impact of the entangling net fisheries due to significant high percentage of discarded catch as well as catching of protected species such as some species of mollusks and the juveniles of sharks.

4. Interaction with ETP species such Irrawaddy Dolphins, Orcaella brevirostris. There had been several reports of deaths due to entanglement to blue swimming crab fishing gears.

5. Improvement of data collection, analyses and transparency.

The stars are aligning for this fisheries and looking forward to it being the first again to have improved management plan. I am very happy too that the stakeholders and fisheries managers are still bright enough not to be thinking of the philippine-style closed season as one of the regulations. Expect my full support.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | November 5, 2017

When science is at the backseat: banning of the hulbot-hulbot

Filipino fishers are amazingly very ingenuous. Most of them are really not highly educated but their creativity quotient is very high, amazingly even higher that the super educated professionals. That high quotient of creativity is best exemplified by innovations of fishing gear types and modifications of fishing operation to suit present resources status and the highly variable sea conditions.

One example of that creative skills is the modified danish seine locally known as hulbot-hulbot. From the inefficient original danish seine design and operation, the hulbot-hulbot was modified to include scarelines and a tomweight. These combination practically made this fishing gear very efficient, catching demersal up to pelagic marine organisms. 

Studies shown that the catch composition of hulbot hulbot fishing operation are from the water column (demersal, demerso-pelagic and surface pelagic) species. Though the fishing touches the bottom it is not designed to catch benthic organisms. List of the species caught do not record obligatory and fulltime residents of coral reefs habitats. This in itself denies the allegations that it mainly operates in coral reef habitats. Second, the construction of the fishing gear when operated in reef areas will definitely be destroyed. The cost of destruction to the fishing gear and lost opportunity is 20 times more expensive than the value of catch taken from coral reef areas. Third, the witnesses industry sectors are actually purse seiners who are in effect competitors at sea. Fourth, science was not really consulted, what ruled out is mostly emotion and popularity.

The said fishing is very efficient and science-based practical regulation/s is/are needed but total ban is overkill and illogical defying the purpose of ecosystem approach to fisheries management where ecological, biological, social and economic foundations are taken into considerstions.

Let us be reasonable and genuinely responsible. So-so policy making should end before we lost everything we have.

The Philippines, despite being an archipelagic country and one of the top 20 seafood producer in the world, its fisheries resources and management is the least of priority. The fisheries sector is where the poorest sector of the society proliferates. Its management is using the least science too.

Fisheries management in the Philippines was never given needed attention. In the past long years, the perception of the society that fisheries resouces are infinite is embodied in the goal of the Bureau of Fisheries on icrease production. Though recently, there is already a recognitiion that Philippines’ fisheries resources are mostly overexploited, in the CNFID Plan 6% increase of total production from both municipal and commercial sectors is still the goal. How could that be achieved in an overfished regime? One of the identified solutions is closed fishing season.

Looking closely at the Philippine style closed season, is it really answering the problem of overfishing? Lets analyze the realities considering biogeographic characteristics of sardines, general fisheries assessment, and through the socio-economic lens.

Sardines are biologically productive – fast growth, early maturity, small in size and serial spawner. However, that high productivity is naturally controlled by their vulnerability to changes in environmental conditions and the abundance of their natural predators. In the presence of anthropogenic factors such as too many and very efficient fishing, increasing ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and marine pollution, that vulnerability is further magnified.

Closed fishing season is indeed one of the recipes from age old fisheries management fishing regulatory tools. When implemented honestly and guided by correct science it is effective. In the Philippines, efficiency of this control is compromised. Why? On a broad scale, during a closed fishing regime, landings is expected to decrease in the first few years due to the decrease in fishing effort (of course because some months are closed to fishing). And ideally landings increases after maybe two years due to increase in the abundance of fish in the waters, as a good result of the closed fishing. The sardines experience in the Philippines is showing the opposite trends. Why? Because immediately after the months of closed fishing, there is a RACE TO FISH, that in essence is still effectively removing significant number of fish out of the water. The closed fishing months give a chance for the fish to spawn and grow a little bit, only to be caught afterwards. The RACE TO FISH is true for all the months after the closed fishing. that practically there is ver few fish remaining to spawn on the next closed fishing season. Is the closed fishing season, Philippines style effective then? No it is not. The only way it will become effective is if there is also a limit on fishing during the months that fishing is allowed. 

From the socio-economic lens. The race to fish during the first few months of the closed fishing season resulted to mega-increased of landings which consequently depressed market prices (very very common sense folks!). Its a definite loss to the fishers and a gain to the buyer-processors/aggregators. And because the processors/aggregators have the capital, increase of storage capacities is a cheap solution. Who is being fooled? It is us the stakeholders. 

This closed fishing season, Philippine style is not solving overfishing in sardines resources. Worst, it is acting as a shroud of mist masking continued overfishing. It is a sham!

Could there be a better mechanism? Yes definitely! STOP OVERFISHING! ENACT GENUINE SOLUTIONS! The EXISTING CLOSED FISHING SEASON IS NOT THE SOLUTION.

The fisheries resources are very important to Philippines economy. Let us not stay blind, deaf and arrogant fools. We are now in the nick of time, business as usual and patchy solutions to problems needs honest reforms. For the sardines fisheries and resources, the call for its honest comprehensive management framework is badly needed. All stakeholders should do their shares towards achieving that policy goal.

The Bureau of Fisheries is the main agency responsible in fulfilling this. Recently, Director Gongona and his team promised to work on it. Some sardines industry representratives tried to stiffle this noble move which is unfortunate considering that industry are to gain if the sardines are correctly managed. I am however confident that there are still players in the industry (and in greater number) who are more sensible to see the trends and listen to reasons. Let us all act now before its too late.

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