THE GOVERNMENT needs to issue more long-term permits for aquaculture to meet growing demand and as the rest of the industry observes sustainable practices like closed fishing seasons, a fisheries advocate said.

“One of the ways to boost fisheries production is to give permits to those who would like to raise fish long term,” Asis G. Perez, co-convenor of Tugon Kabuhayan said by telephone.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco T. Laurel, Jr. said in a House committee earlier that the Philippines’ fish resources are depleted.

For the fourth quarter, the Department of Agriculture projects a 38-day deficit in the supply of fish.

Mr. Laurel added that importing 35,000 metric tons (MT) of fish will not be sufficient to satisfy demand.

Additionally, the closed fishing season for sardines in northern Palawan and the Zamboanga Peninsula have also affected supply. Both seasons started in November and will run until Jan. 31 and Feb. 15, respectively.

Under the Philippine Fisheries Code, closed fishing seasons are imposed to help certain fisheries regenerate.

Mr. Perez, who was also a former director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), added: “We have many bodies of water that can support fish, such as dams and lakes. If operators are given a sufficient number of years, they will invest more.”

“If they are allowed, then by next year maybe we will only need a few imports. Aquaculture operators set up quickly,” he added.

The BFAR released a memorandum circular in August, which allowed the import of frozen round scad or galunggong, bigeye scad, mackerel, bonito, and moonfish. The import period runs from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

“For next year, (we really need) to brush on our production so we end up importing less,” Mr. Perez said.

During the third quarter, fisheries production rose 2.1% by volume to 1.02 million MT, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. — Adrian H. Halili