Fishing association opposes plan to import 60,000 MT

THE GOVERNMENT’S plan to import 60,000 metric tons (MT) of fish to augment supply during the closed fishing season has met with opposition from the association of small fishermen.

The chairman of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, Fernando L. Hicap, said in a statement Sunday that the planned imports will deprive fishermen of good prices for their catch during the closed season for major fishing grounds.

“We attest that the shortage of fish is artificial. Following the government’s reasoning for importation, why declare a fishing ban that generates alleged shortages in the first place? Moreover, even with closed seasons, we have lots of fish in our seas. Imports are unnecessary,” Mr. Hicap said.

On Aug. 27, the Department of Agriculture announced that it has approved the issuance of certificates of necessity to import 60,000 MT of fish to maintain supply and keep prices low during the closed fishing season.

“Our primordial concern is to enhance and sustain the development of our fisheries sector, and provide our fellow citizens affordable fish,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said.

Fish species to be shipped under the certificates of necessity to import include small pelagic varieties such as round scad (galunggong), mackerel, and bonito.

However, Mr. Hicap said the closed fishing season affects livelihoods, and called for compensation and government subsidies for the idling of the fishing fleet.

“Instead of holistically addressing the constant agricultural crisis, the government always resorts to band-aid solutions like imports,” Mr. Hicap said.

The closed fishing season was implemented in the Davao Gulf (June 1 to Aug. 31), Visayan Sea (Nov. 15 to Feb. 15), Sulu Sea (Dec. 1 to Feb. 28), and Northeast Palawan (November to January).  

The closed fishing season is enforced by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, to allow the regeneration of small pelagic fish and other species, in response to the dwindling fish catch over the years. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave