THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it has suspended the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances for round scad (galunggong), mackerel, and various other species, effective immediately.

According to a department circular dated Dec. 13, the suspension also applies to the issuance of import documents for bonito, moonfish, pompano, and tuna by-products.

The DA said the purpose of the order is to prevent the diversion of such imports to wet markets, where they compete with the catch of domestic fishermen.

Imports of species like salmon and pompano are governed by Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 195, which are permitted for import only by hotels, restaurants, and other institutional users. The FAO is also designed to reduce competition from imports for the domestic catch typically sold in wet markets.

FAO 195 exempts from the import restrictions canners and processors holding licenses to operate issued by the Food and Drug Administration who are compliant with food safety standards. 

Separately, the DA said imports of pompano and tuna by-products are open only to institutional buyers which keep adequate records.

The DA said that all FAO 195-covered imports need to be registered by the importer with the government’s electronic records system within 24 hours.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has conducted market inspections following reports that imported pompano and pink salmon are being sold in wet markets.    

The BFAR said it is reviewing the FAO No. 195 and expects to issue new regulations by the first quarter. — Ashley Erika O. Jose