Posted by: Jimely Flores | March 15, 2015

Caught in a Frenzy of Spawning

In all of the places I visited and will visit, the traditional markets are one of my fave places. It always a place of wonderful discoveries and sources of fabulous collections.

Just recently, having nothing to do, I hitched ride with a friend on his way to the province and asked to be dropped in one of the major fish landing centers of the country. Using my old reliable tablet as camera, I went around in search of a good dig. And WHOA this is what I found, bunches of same sizes Panuping (Lethrinus lentjan). Suspecting it was caught from a spawning aggregation, I bought some few kilos, have them iced and proceed to the bus station through a tricycle and rode the first bus out.

Arriving, though tired, I immediately proceeded into disecting my loot fishes. And YES ALL OF THEM ARE GRAVID AND READY TO SPAWN, my suspect that they were caught in the frenzy of their spawning aggregration is validated. I hope I could further validate them by diving in the area but alas, I was not able to extract the exact site where the fishes are caught. Getting such information needs time and entails gaining the trust of the fishers. I hope the Universe will soon guide me again in the place.

Having witnessed once a spawning aggregation of groupers is addicting. I would like to see such wonderful, joyous event once more.
image Letrinus lentjan (Panuping)

Posted by: Jimely Flores | March 14, 2015

Mindful living in fisheries

Its midnight. I’m tired but my mind seemed not to want to rest. Thoughts keep on darting in and out.

One thought is particularly lingering, the thoughts by a good person I just talked with. Am I not tired advocating for realistic policies in the field of fisheries resources sustainability and environmental protection? Yes I had my moments of darkness and will have them again, when all hopes and sanity seemed out of place, when being alone and ridiculed is the norm. Yet I could not stay there, living means hope, hope means faith, faith means intelligence and intelligence create action.

Mindfulness, pushing to stay at the moment despite the heavy cloud of lethargy, is the secret. Most of the time I forget but the flittering moments of awareness are always my friends.
image Refmagnets arranged by artistic big hands

Posted by: Jimely Flores | March 13, 2015

Fisheries Policies and Laws Need Paradigm Shift

The Philippines was once a major contributor to the world total fisheries production. Since about 2 decades ago, the annual landings have consistently been decreasing. Ironically, Paper Policy-wise, the Philippines almost look good and competent in managing its natural resources. The commonly given reason for the stark inconsistency is, policies and laws are not strictly enforced or enforcement is weak.

Yet, I have some reservations with the word ‘enforcement’ anyway. Is that not where the weakness is coming from? We are supposed to be at the age of information, and knowledge is empowering. Yet our mindset is still on the use of force. We need a radical paradigm shift, from creating our policies to be enforced into creating policies that encourages compliance. With the opening of market opportunities, knowledge and abundant information, incentives is the name of the game. Policies that were strategically created on the framework that following it will benefit more the resource users at a certain time in a language they understand is much better than laws and regulations that are imposed through the barrels of guns and chasing boats.

Imagine.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | March 13, 2015

Its Midnight

Having no deadline to work on, no skype calls to wait for and no radio program to look forward listening to, I went offline from the world wide web, picked up a great book, laid my back on the bed and read. I am aslept in a matter of minutes.

I am now fully awake and its midnight. As usual, my mind is in its most active moment at these hours. I dreamed of a dead palace underwater. Most of its very diverse big inhabitants are gone aside from bacteria, fungi, and maybe viruses around. The place is just a mess of plastics in various forms, kinds and shapes. Nets of different mesh sizes and forms are also prominent. Taking a close look at the net I am stepping on, its definitely one of the gillnet types. It must have been newly washed into the deep from ashore as it has different epiphytes from the definitely settled ones. I stayed longer hoping to see at least one bigger organism to dart by, but my stillness is met by deep silence. Its scary for somebody like me who used to love the beauty and diversity of the underwater world.

While writing this, the feeling of emptiness still pervades. Its a very lonely ugly world in there. Is that the future of the underwater world humanity will soon create? Its midnight.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | March 5, 2015

Miniaturization of fishing gears

Miniaturization has been the path this new era is into. Machineries, gadgets, every man-made implements created for man-made use and pleasure are going nano in sizes.

Even here in the Philippine fisheries, though its reasons has nothing to do with the global technological changes. In 2004, due to several factors such as increased of fossil fuel costs, increased cost of materials and escalated campaign on reducing illegal fishing, I saw miniaturization happening in the fishing industry of the country particularly those operating in the inter-island seas. This observation was mentioned in the book I co-authored entitled “Fisheries of Central Visayas: Status and Trends” – wherein the ringnets and bagnets fishing boats were downsized to stay fishing in the municipal waters while maintaining the sizes of the fishing gears (oneocean.org/download/db_files/cv_fish_profile.pdf). This is to circumvent the law and minimized fuel cost but exacerbating overcapacity that is pushing the resources into overfished state.

At present, BFAR has just successfully make the ban of Danish Seines legal. Will this just be another law on paper? Don’t get me wrong, it is such a good law in principle but there are obvious unthought-of negative nuances in it. The premise that it destroys the reefs is not true, DS are not operating in reef areas otherwise they would end up with broken nets. The law did not definitely look on the social aspect, where will the fishworkers go? Maybe into blasting? Blasting is a fishing method that requires less capital. Or maybe the displaced fishworkers be recipients of the harmful subsidies such as gillnets and other fishing gears that when simple math is used, it show to just worsen the overfishing status? This is forced miniaturization. Banning is one of the most harsh regulation and it should always be based on good science and socio-economic foundation – significant basic foundations that unfortunately are not so much respected in this country.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | March 2, 2015

The timeline of cheap-protein in the Philippines

Philippines before me may have been dependent on seafoods as major source of cheap protein. Due to increasing population and opening of trades and market, Philippines in my youth have started weaning away from seafoods into farmed animals like pigs and chicken. In my midlife, Philippines’ major source of cheap protein is chicken. My outlook in the coming years is that Philippines’ source of cheap protein-essences will be in the form of chicken, pork and seafood flavors from instant noodles and other cheap instant food products. It is no wonder that the analytical capabilities of the majority of the populations seemed to be digressing as indicated by the present political leaderships in the country now.

Two years ago the European Commission (EC) informed Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) that a yellow card might be issued on Philippines seafood exports to the European Union. Two years ago the BFAR knew that it needs to work immediately to really work on reforming the fisheries sector policies and business. Two years ago despite the early reminder, no action was made until the actual yellow card came out finally on June 2014 (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-653_en.htm;

In the recent months since the yellow card came out BFAR, the House of Congressional Representative and the Senate fast-tracked the much needed reform starting with the revision of the Philippine Fisheries Code 8550 of 1995. However, on their rush to amend the law, they deny the consultation process with the relevant stakeholders (the consulation process is one of the essences of democracy – are we going back to dictatorship?). The private sectors left out of the legal process are thankfully not sleeping on their rights and they raised their voices high (http://www.rappler.com/nation/69371-philippines-fisheries-code-eu?variation=1&utm_expid=52036214-3.ZdNJcl7wRGKh5FrBYz8eLQ.1&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com.ph). That delays the process of amending the said law. Instead of fast tracking the process of adapting the amended law intime for the deadlines of EU, rigging the consultation process messed it up causing unwanted delays and setbacks. This is not even discussing the starkly obvious flaws in the amended law. It seems that in this administration rigging of democratic processes is more of the norm rather than an exception. I fear if further look would be given to the development of the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the Philippine Blue swimming crab Management Plan, such is also the case.

I hope soon things will change on this country. I fear for the continuing overfishing despite the loud noises created on solving IUU through rigorous law enforcement using guns and chasing boats. Are we really still this barbaric? The impact of climate change in the fisheries sector is hardly given attention. Improvement activities are more of ecosystem risks rather than creating possible solutions. Coastal wastes and marine debris is now more of a common sight. Harmful subsidies in the fisheries sector is becoming a charity act. I do not love to see such negative events but somehow they are so obvious and foolish to even say such may not exist.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | February 24, 2015

You are the present day Goliath

You heard of me just before we met,
Though I’m not sure what the infos were.
You developed an impression then
Though you might not be aware of it.

We met.
You talked, I listened.
You asked questions, I answered with scientific honesty.
You asked for informations, I provided you with literatures.
You gossiped and badmouthed others, I was silent.

I thought you were smart and a quick learner
I also thought you were nice
I was absolutely wrong.
So I blocked you out of my circle.

After all these years, despite my utter silence
You continue to belittle and insult me (and others),
To other people through emails (and more, for sure)

You think you are untouchable?
You think you are a giant? Yes, the Goliath of today!
Bullying only those you think are in the lower castes
Greedy for power and crowd adulation
But insecure and a coward to the core.

I can only pity your existence.
I pray someday soon
You will see the light and reform your ways
And give peace to those you are oppresing.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | February 23, 2015

A Trauma in the Trauma Center

Sunday, aside from being my market day, its mostly my gardening day. I love tending my wild garden, be it raining or sun-scorching Sunday. Just before I rest for lunch, an insect went inside my left ear and happily moving around hurting me with some new really painful sensations. Not wasting time, I just clean my hands and went into the emergency of the hospital on my gardening attire.
I went first to one of the elite hospital hoping i will get immediate treatment. The guards, seeing me in a not so elite attire, hesitated to let me in until I explained it to them patiently what I need. The same hesitation was given my way in the reception but this time, I briskly tell them what I need and hurray, attention is given to me.unfortunately being a Sunday, no ENT Specialist is around but they let me know there is only one hospital that has an ENT Specialist on duty. The hospital is one of the biggest public hospital in town. I hesitated as I percieved government hospitals to be very crowded.
I, instead, went to an elite chinese hospital; hoping I will be lucky. Unfortunately, the same hesitations and answers were given to me.
So out of desperation, I went to the recommended hospital. To my surprise, the buildings and the environment are nice and not the dilapidated look I somehow thought of. I went to the ER but the guard told me my case should be in the Trauma Section. I felt relief, expecting i have avoided meeting the sick by going into the Trauma section. To my worst surprise, the sight opened to me are lines of bleeding men and women with the cries of the grievers filling the silent air. Did I miss a war or ambush news? but no, the guard said  its a normal occurence and its even the lean hours. Feeling slightly dazed and sick up to my core, not because of the insect in my ear, but because of the hundred bodies of wounded people with their linens soaked in blood, few are already fully covered (dead) and some are still holding on to dear life. I went through the long bureaucratic process like a zombie until I was finally led to the ENT.
Closing my eyes to the crowd around me, I let the doctor and nurses took care of removing the ant in my ear. Thanking profusely the doctor and nurses, I went to the billing and cashier sections also expressing my gratitude this time with a smile as their place seemed to be out of the death section. But I still need to go back to where I entered for the discharge process needed. Not having any pain this time, I was able to see how the only lady nurse is working efficiently along and alone amidst the crowd of rapidly growing patients. She was very efficient, cool and such so helpful, I believe I am looking at an angel. I looked at her name tag and tried banking it into my memories exactly for this blog, to my consternation I could not fully remember her name anymore. Its so sad that I could not name the Angel I saw that moment. I know however that I will recognized her when I see her in other places, then maybe I could tell her straight to her eyes with a relax smile that she is an angel. Maybe someday.
This event also reminded me to be very careful and understanding in dealing with people particularly strangers, as I may not be aware of how their moments are unfolding. Its a sad reminder and though I consider that Trauma Section traumatic, I still see it as full of lessons I need to internalize, to pause and be still when I met a not-so-nice stranger.
The ant is now out of my ears though I am still using some antibiotic as the doctor suspected I was bitten, yet the experiences and lessons i gained was worth more than the expenses and trauma I incurred. Still, I thank you universe for the loving support and care.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | February 22, 2015

Sunday: My Market Day

Its Sunday, I woke up from the bells and prayers of the Muslim Church in my neighborhood, indicating it is now about four in the morning. Refreshed from a good night rest, I joyously grab my market bags and food containers and walked to the market, a few kilometers away. This early, I usually walk instead of riding the taxi to enjoy the cool morning breeze.
Looking forward with eager anticipation of the surprises my market day usually brings, my steps are long and brisks.
As usual, I went to the fresh vegetable section first. Then into the seafood section. I moved around to look at the marine organisms and farmed species. On my round, I saw some albacore (not a common sight in the market) which is really very interesting, and then the usual fishes such as milkfish, bigeyed scad, roundscads, other species of tunas in all their life stages from babies to adult, and of course the perennial presence of immature blue swimming crabs. Among all the seafoods mentioned, only the blue swimming crabs are not supposed to be sold and process as in their immature life stage as per the national management plan posted in the BFARhttp://www.bfar.da.gov.ph website.
I, of course, just bought some mahi-mahi which I requested the seller to fillet for me, some seaweeds, and mollusks. I considered it as a very interesting market day because of the albacore but also a depressing one because of the immature blue swimming crabs.
image Berried blue swimming crab in the domestic market

image Immature blue swimming crab in the Philippines domestic market

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