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.

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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 PlanĀ 

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.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | October 10, 2017

When science is given the backseat: Fisheries Code

The Philippines had been considered as one of the data deficient countries in terms of its natural resources capital. Worst, in policy making exercises, science was never respected. While the world is scaling up from local data into mega data crunching as a means to fuel economic development, innovations and conservation of biodiversity, the Philippines is left behind into using politicians tales and less-informed citizens’ science.

Among the several fields of resource management that in dire of using real science is the fisheries sector. However, even in the newly amended Fisheries Code (RA10654), dinosaur-age provisions were still copied and adapted without thinking whether they are still applicable or not. In this certain case, analytical thinking was not even used apparently. Some of the provisions that are in need of dire revisions which should have been more thinking attention are: 15km vis a vis boat gross tonnages, active and passive gear usage, institutional structure of management, or the entire Code itself as there are certain small insertions which coukd actually be used to deny its efficiency. Let us make a management policy crafted by resources managers and users and not mere lawyers and politicians who could not even identify a fish from a plant.

Posted by: Jimely Flores | October 5, 2017

Collateral Death

My fingers are itching to type, the keyboard is waiting, my mind is so focused on one thought, my spirit is struggling for balance.

In the news is a death of an Irrawaddy Dolphin due to entanglement of its tail to a net used to catch marine organisms. IUCN rated the Irrawaddy Dolphins under the threat of extinction mostly because its habitat is a major fishing ground of blue swimming crabs and other fishes. Irrawaddy Dolphins are euryhaline species. In Southeast Asia, they are found in nearshore waters, embayments and rivers.

Blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus) is one of the top seafood exports of the Philippines, which destination is mostly the United States of America as a substitute for the blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus. Fishing is indeed a great source of economic security to many but I hope biodiversity will not be its collateral damage.

References:

1. https://www.google.com.ph/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/second-irrawaddy-dolphin-death-in-borneo-linked-to-fishing-nets/&ved=0ahUKEwjorYbDu9rWAhVFu7wKHcwPC8cQFghVMAw&usg=AOvVaw3IMrk0IW6K6dc3z25xr9AA
2. https://www.google.com.ph/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://philnews.ph/2017/09/06/endangered-irrawaddy-dolphin-found-dead-palawan/&ved=0ahUKEwjorYbDu9rWAhVFu7wKHcwPC8cQFghMMAo&usg=AOvVaw1691vRVsdNbwb9zgqPGn0k

3. https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/irrawaddy-dolphin

4. https://www.google.com.ph/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/44187/0&ved=0ahUKEwjN2cLyvdrWAhWFkJQKHQgFBPAQFggjMAA&usg=AOvVaw3W0pR941FY1Fd-aYg7HR_k

Posted by: Jimely Flores | April 5, 2017

In focus: the case of Hulbot-hulbot

In an event I had just attended, its surprising how many learned people (so called Ph D. holders and attorneys) are so gullible in  believing hook-line-and-sinker the mis-informations proliferated on hulbot-hulbot operations. 

What is a hulbot-hulbot?

This is a kind of fishing method that originally is a Danish Seine but was modified probably by the Japanese and introduced in the Philippines. The original Danish Seine (when set at sea) have 2 long lines called scarelines connected to both wings. In the modification (hulbot-hulbot) strips of sack materials were inserted in the twines of the lines. The lines with the hanging strips of sack materials (scarelines) make the operation more efficient in herding and enclosing the fishes and other marine organisms trapped inside the enclosure. Another modification is the use of the weights (locally called lingote) to efficiently close the wings during hauling instead of it being open as was from the original design. The weights are mostly made of concrete with two (or one) big rings made of steel where the scarelines and the wings passes through during the hauling. These two modifications made the fishing gear super efficient.

Catch composition analysis particularly the big ones indicate species associated with the sandy-muddy and demerso pelagic habitats such as bigeyes, ponyfishes, glass mojarras, lizardfishes, threadfin breams, roundscads, bigeye scads, squids, mackerels and other fishes. There are no strictly reef-related marine organisms being part of the major catch composition.

As a fisheries worker whose advocacy is efficient and realistic policy reforms to sustain the productivity of our oceans and the living resources therein, I am more concerned on the super efficiency of the fishing gear than its destruction to the habitat as per alleged by many who did not even went further than to listen to political science proliferating like fire in the news.  Its super efficiency necessitate its regulation but a total ban, may not be wise too.

I also hope there are more fisheries scientists who will step up, speak more, and do the study to help the policy makers do their job better. What happened and is happening now is a reproduction of so many paper policies seemingly good but inefficient because of lack of science foundation and better thinking.

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