ILOILO CITY – The government has imposed a three-month fishing ban in the Visayas Sea to address a severe decline in fish populations in that area of the Visayas due to overfishing.
Harvesting varieties of sardines (“tuloy”, “tamban”, “tabagak”), herring (“balantiyong”) and mackerel (“guma-a”, “bulao”, “hasa-hasa”) will not be allowed in the area from November 15 until February 15, 2024
Conservation efforts cover several areas in the Visayas, including the Talisay River in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo State; Tomonton Point at EB Magalona; Danao River in the city of Escalante; Sta. Faith and Madridejos in Cebu; and Gigantes Island in Carles, Iloilo.
The Visayas Sea, bordered by the islands of Cebu, Negros, Masbate, Panay and Leyte, is known for its rich marine biodiversity. More than 100,000 fishermen depend on it for their food and livelihood.
The Western Visayas office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will monitor marine resources during the three-month closed season, which locals call “Pahuway sa Baybay” (respite of the sea).
The closure is aimed at breeding different species of fish to ensure a stable supply of fishermen.
“This [closed season] reflects the government’s commitment to supporting the fishing industry while ensuring the long-term sustainability of fish stocks. By working together, we can jointly design a better future for the Philippine fishing sector,” said Agriculture Undersecretary Drusila Esther Bayate.
BFAR Western Visayas director Remia Aparri said in an interview that livelihood assistance through shellfish propagation will be extended to affected fishermen.
“From [regulation of fishing activities] limiting earlier, we now advocate a “rest from the sea” during this three-month period. We will give the Visayas Sea time to recover and the fish to breed and grow,” Aparri said.
Former Agriculture Secretary Processo Alcala issued Fisheries Administrative Order No. 167-3 in 2013 to impose an annual fishing ban in the Visayas Sea.
BFAR research shows that November to February is the peak spawning season for sardines, mackerel and herring.
The closure will apply to commercial boats of 3.1 tonnes gross weight and above. Violators will be fined P6,000 or may be imprisoned for up to six years. In addition to BFAR, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Navy, the Regional Maritime Group, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Office of Maritime Industries, the National Telecommunications Commission, the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority and the Port Customs Bureau Iloilo has been tasked with monitoring the situation during the closed fishing season.