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. 


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