Small-scale fishers worry as Marcos eyes ban
September 20, 2023 | 11:02am
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is considering implementing a fishing ban in some areas to combat overfishing, but there are concerns that it might disproportionately affect sustainable small-scale fishing activities.
Marcos, who is also the agriculture chief, said the government plans to impose a fishing ban and other restrictions in areas intended for fish breeding and propagation to address overfishing and secure fish stocks.
“Kung minsan kailangan ‘wag uubusin yung isda para sa next season mayroon pa. Kaya ‘yun ‘yung tinitignan natin ngayon,” Marcos was quoted as saying in a Malacañang release.
(Sometimes, we need to avoid depleting fish stocks so that there will still be some left for the next season. That’s what we’re looking at now.)
He added that there are areas where fishing must be prohibited since they serve as breeding grounds.
Marcos also said that the government is putting up more cold storage facilities to prevent spoilage of fish catch.
But fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said that small fishers and those who are engaged in subsistence fishing are the “usual targets” of conservation measures and restrictions.
“In many fishing areas, we always fall prey to such strict fishing regulations accompanied by unjust and hefty penalties including but not limited to P2,500 to P5,000 fine, confiscation of catch and fishing gears, and cases of illegal and unauthorized fishing,” PAMALAKAYA national chairperson Fernando Hicap said.
More than 80% of the country’s two million fisherfolk use relatively small amounts of capital and small fishing vessels. Small-scale fishers and fish workers are among the country’s poorest and most socially vulnerable sectors.
A report by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) and Rare Philippines in February stressed the role of municipal fishers in ensuring the responsible management and sustainable use of aquatic resources and their supporting ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows.
Hicap noted that commercial fishing vessels, on the other hand, can carry out unregulated fishing operations anywhere, even within the municipal fishing grounds designated for small-scale fishers.
PAMALAKAYA called on the Marcos administration to halt reclamation and conversion of fishing grounds and coastal areas instead of imposing a fishing ban.
“There are around 187 reclamation projects across the country, as per the Philippine Reclamation Authority itself. These dump-and-fill projects wipe out productive marine and aquatic resources such as mangroves, coral reefs, and other wetlands that result in dramatic dwindling of fish stocks,” Hicap said.
In August, Marcos ordered the suspension of 22 reclamation projects in Manila Bay pending a review of their environmental and social impacts. However, the government has yet to release an official suspension order to the public.
Hicap said that Marcos’ verbal order is “toothless and sham” without an official executive order.