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.



  1. Moi Jimely! Thanks for this.
    From this post and your earlier one on ‘fake science’ with regard to the hulbot-hulbot, there plainly is a good deal of emotion and controversy about this. Not being familiar with Philippine politics and fishery regulation/management, I am wondering just who are the opponents of hulbot-hulbot (advocates for the total ban), and what are their interests in the issue? In trying to find information on this, I read stories like this — — so it seems plain that a number of politicians and environmental groups are involved. But what is their evidence (mentioned but not cited in this story) to support the ban?


    • Hi Jack. Happy to hear your thoughts on the blog. It was indeed well supported by politicians and many environmental advocates. Hulbot-hulbot are allegedly operating in coral reefs habitat and with the tomweight and scarelines, it does create havoc of destruction. Fisheries science and fishing engineering say such is not true because mainly it was not designed to operate that way. The alleged proofs that they operate on coral reefs are the small amount of dead coral fragments in the net. In the Philippines with a long history of blastfishing, muro-ami and irresponsible dive tourisms, it is not uncommon to see coral fragments at sea and even on beaches. Second alleged proof is the presence of fusiliers in the catch but fusiliers could be seen anywhere and are not really very limited on coral reefs habitats.
      Consequence of that policy is another additional hard-to-implement policy. Imported frozen fishes is flooding the market and there is even no effort to look at them. Traceability is hardly understood yet here in the Philippines even by the so called regulators and NGOs.


  2. The operators of Danish Seine (DS) complained and went to courts to halt the implementation of the ban and had availed of a temporary restraining order from the lower court. The operators were apparently collecting science evidences to prove that DS do not and could not operate in coral reefs as allegged. Unfortunately, their TOR application was denied by mere technicality as environmental issues need to go to the court of appeals and not the lower courts. How this policy was promulgated without conclusive evidence that it is destructive to coral reefs reflect the need to mainstream science into way we manage our resources.

    The sad fact remains that because there is no existing framework to process objections to a policy, there is no way to correct such mistake.


  3. Probably we remissed on our duties as science workers? I, for one, had been silent about it until I got so frustrated with ignorant arrogance of so-called environmental advocates who could not even differentiate a fish from a frog. Who glibly talks about fisheries management without really understanding it.


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