BACK TO THE WATERS: End of fishing ban signals hope for Visayan Sea

ILOILO – In just a few days, fisherfolk will be able to resume fishing activity in the Visayan Sea, known for its rich marine biodiversity.

On Thursday, February 15, it will have been exactly three months since the closed season in the Visayan Sea began. Fishing for species such as sardines, mackerel, and others will be allowed again starting Friday, Feb. 16.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Western Visayas director, Remia Aparri, confirmed that BFAR will lift the closed season, permitting fisherfolk to catch the mentioned species of fish.

A three-month fishing moratorium is implemented annually in the Visayan Sea to address the severe decline in fish populations caused by overfishing.

The closed season spans from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15.

The Visayan Sea is a significant contributor to the Philippine fishing industry. Its temporary closure aims to protect marine life during crucial breeding periods.

The species under protection include the following:

* Bali Sardine (Sardinella lemuru, locally known as tamban, tunsoy, or haul-haul)

* Short-bodied Mackerel (Rastrelliger brachysoma, known as hasa-hasa)

* Goldstripe Sardine (Sardinella gibbosa, known as halobaybay, tamban, lapad, tamban lison, or lapa)

* Indian Mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta, known as bulao or alumahan)

* Fimbriated Sardine (Sardinella fimbriata, known as tunsoy, lao-lao, tabagak, tamban, or liryan)

* Rainbow Sardine (Dussumieria acuta, known as tulis, balantiyong, or hilos-hilos)

Aparri said scientific studies have shown November to February to be the months when the mentioned fish species spawn. To allow them time to reproduce or increase their population, a pause in fishing activities is necessary.

“This period is when they spawn or produce fingerlings. We need to allow the young to grow and the spawning ones to reproduce in order to increase the fish population,” Aparri explained.

Aparri believes this is the only effective measure to ensure the sustainability of the fish species in the Visayan Sea.

This conservation effort covers several areas in the Visayas, including Olotayan Island and Culasi Point in Capiz; Talisay River in Iloilo; Tomonton Point in Negros Occidental; Gigantes Island Lighthouse in Iloilo; Madridejos and Bantayan Island in Cebu; and Danao River in Negros Occidental.

The Visayan Sea, bordered by the islands of Cebu, Negros, Masbate, Panay, and Leyte, is one of the largest fishing grounds in the country and is vital for over 100,000 fisherfolk who depend on it for their sustenance and livelihood.

The area is also a habitat for diverse marine life, including corals, mangroves, seagrasses, and marine protected areas.

However, the Visayan Sea faces threats from illegal, unregulated fishing and increasing marine debris.

The closed season extends to several regions in Western Visayas, encompassing parts of Iloilo, Capiz, and Negros Occidental, as well as Bantayan Island in Central Visayas.

Before the closed season, Aparri urges local government units (LGUs), stakeholders, and the community, especially fisherfolk, to support the conservation of the Visayan Sea by reporting any illegal fishing activities during the closed season./PN


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