THE PRACTICE of closing fishing grounds to allow fisheries to recover has had a disproportionate impact on small fishermen by depriving them of livelihoods while driving up consumer food costs, according to a fishermen’s organization, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA). 

PAMALAKAYA National Chairman Fernando L. Hicap said in a statement Monday that closed fishing seasons are “unjust, undemocratic, and harmful to the industry.”

“The closed fishing season affects both the fisherfolk and the Filipino consumers because it simultaneously leads to shortages and inflation,” Mr. Hicap said.  

“Small fishers who are directly affected by fishing bans are never consulted on this policy that adversely affects their living,” he said.

The Department of Agriculture has authorized the issuance of certificates of necessity to import covering 60,000 metric tons (MT) of fish to augment supply in preparation for the closed fishing season. 

Fish species to be imported include small pelagic species such as round scad (galunggong), mackerel, and bonito.

Fish imports for sale in wet markets are governed by guidelines set by Fisheries Administrative Order No. 259.  

Mr. Hicap said allowing imported fish does not solve the issue of unstable fish supply and prices.

“The government should refrain from placing our productive and major fishing grounds under closed season, which leads to shortages, and subsequently allow the entry of imported fish in our markets,” Mr. Hicap said.

“Imports harm the livelihood of fisherfolk because farmgate prices of galunggong and other fishery products are being pulled down with the entry of imported fish,” he added.

In a virtual briefing Monday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said nearly 20,000 MT worth of fish imports have signed import clearances.

“Depending on the transport and logistics, some (fish imports) can arrive in two to three weeks, while the rest… MT is to arrive over the last quarter of the year,” Mr. Dar said.  

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Eduardo B. Gongona said on television Monday that fish imports will not kill the domestic industry as the volumes have been carefully calibrated to address actual demand.  

Mr. Gongona said fish imports will come from Vietnam or China. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave