Posted by: Jimely Flores | November 18, 2013

Opportunities in Philippine fisheries opened by typhoon haiyan/yolanda

Typhoon haiyan (aka yolanda) hit land on November 8 2013, affecting 41 provinces along CARAGA, Davao, Northern Mindanao, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Bicol, MIMAROPA and CALABARZON. Most of these areas particularly the fishing communities, were badly damaged.

Among the livelihood most affected is the fisheries sector, fishing boats and fishing gears are destroyed. As of today, BFAR is still on the process of collecting information on the damages incurred. These losses will have a great impact on the economy, food security and social integrity of Filipinos. It is the fisheries sector who would need the most help in the rehabilitation efforts of the government.

Yet I see the opportunities opened by this very sad event. With most of the fishing boats, fishing gears and Fish Aggregating Device (FADs/payao) destroyed, implementing the long overdue reforms while in the rebuilding process is now easier. BFAR should take this opportunity to implement necessary reforms such as:
1. Registration of FADs, regulation on the distances and number of FAD. It is recommended that the biological, ecological and oceanographic characteristics of the areas be used as reference points. Payao or FAD are efficient and greener (less carbon footprint) way of catching fishes but it is also responsible in the catching of too many juvenile fishes, sources of marine debris, hazards to navigation and big contributory to overexploitation. Thus despite its good services, number, distances and area of deployment should be regulated.
2. Fishing gears specifications, materials and design should be looked into immediately before the full blast in acquiring and constructing will happen. One of the problems in the Philippine fisheries is overcapacity. This is an opportune time for BFAR to encourage the fishers society to go into more eco-friendly fishing gear materials and design. For example: a. gillnets should have bigger mesh sizes, larger twine sizes and the floaters are biodegrable instead of plastics or rubbers; b. Fish traps/pots shifts from pvc plastics to bamboo or other biodegrable materials. This is to minimize marine debris and ghost fishing (continuous fishing while lost at sea); c. Strict restrictions in the ban of materials for fishing gears rendered illegal by existing laws (trawls, etc).
3. Fishing boats design needs some upgrades to fit into the changing situation of the fisheries. Present design are not fit for the carriage of sufficient volume of ice; this was because in the past, fishers fished very near the landing sites, that bringing ice is not a necessity. With the obviously significant increasing distances of the fishing ground, fishers need to stay longer at sea to cover the expenses. Without sufficient volume of ice, their catches freshness are usually compromised, rendering the fishers and the ecosystem be at the losing end. The increasing concern on the use of fossil fuels and its costs, necessitates the adoption of greener technologies. There is therefore an immediate need to adapt the fishing boat designs for the use of green technologies.

This is the right time to correct our shortcomings and adapt better ways of exploiting our fisheries resources. I therefore implore the BFAR authorities and decision makers to listen to these pleas. I am sure the fisheries scientists here are very much willing to help, in fact I am volunteering my thoughts and services. Please let us not waste this great opportunity that God provided us. Please!

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