PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan — The fourth year of implementation of the three-month closed fishing season for round scad (galunggong) is set to begin on Nov. 1 in the waters of northeastern Palawan.
Assistant regional director Robert Abrera , Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-Mimaropa) officer-in-charge, announced Wednesday that the ban in the catching of the “poor man’s fish” will be implemented until Jan. 31, 2019.
He said the order on prohibiting any fishing activity was directed by the office of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to BFAR director Eduardo Gongona.
“This fisheries management measure is being implemented again for the fourth time to protect the galunggong during its peak spawning season,” Abrera said in a press conference.
He noted that after three years of imposing the closed fishing season, good-sized and mature round scads have been observed to have returned in the northeastern area of the province, spilling over to some municipal territorial waters in southern Palawan, and even Ulugan Bay in Puerto Princesa.
Large pelagic fish like yellowfin tuna and blue marlin that feed on round scads have been observed too, to have gone back to Mindoro Strait, he said.
Abrera cited the arrest by the Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDP) of Vietnamese fishermen in the Sulu Sea who were in possession of large yellowfin tunas.
Myrna Candelario, regional coordinator for the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) in Mimaropa, said their study has confirmed that the “peak spawning season” for round scad is November to January in the northeastern side of the province.
She attributed the increasing trend in the annual catch of round scads from 2015 to 2017 to the positive impact of the closed fishing season.
In terms of compliance, Abrera said full patrol operations conducted by law enforcement agencies, such as the CGDP and the 2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (2nd SOU-MG), has recorded a decrease in the number of boats in northeastern Palawan from 828 in 2015 to 2016, to 141 in 2017 to 2018.
He said the drop in the number of boats present in the fish management area denotes that round scads can repopulate since there are fewer catchers.
Abrera said the closed fishing season is needed for maybe 10 years more to guarantee the repopulation of the round scads not only in the waters of northeastern Palawan but in other areas as well.
While the fishing ban is imposed, he added the Technical Working Group (TWG) has set up a plan of action to address its possible impacts on the socioeconomic well-being of the residents of fishing communities.
The TWG, composed among others by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), will allow them to access funds that can help cushion the impact of the fishing ban.
DTI Palawan director Rosenda Fortunado added that affected fishermen may also access the microfund program Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“In partnership with DOLE and DSWD, we will talk about providing support to areas with fish landings for the galunggong smoked fish program. For others who wish to enterprise in dried fish-making, the P3 under Small Business Corporation is a program that can help since it offers low interest,” she said.
Gina Bacosa of the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the DSWD in the province said they can avail of loans up to PHP15,000 as seed capital individually, or as a group enterprise. (Celeste Anna Formoso/PNA)