THE CLOSED fishing season declared over the Visayan Sea and the Zamboanga Peninsula will be more adequately enforced once the rules on sardine management and vessel monitoring are implemented, environmental non-government organization (NGO) Oceana said.

“The declaration of closed fishing season by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) this year takes a more significant turn because the National Sardines Management Plan was signed and up for implementation. Secondly, we have the rules on vessel monitoring measures also ready for implementation that will help in effectively enforcing the closed season,” according to a statement from the organization, quoting its vice president Gloria Estenzo Ramos.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, in Fisheries Administrative Order no. 167-3, closed off the Visayan Sea on Nov. 15 to all fishing activity involving sardines, herring and mackerel, while the ban on the Zamboanga peninsular waters was imposed on Dec. 1, covering sardines. The closed seasons end on Feb. 15 and March 1, respectively.

“With the spatial and temporal closure in the portion of the Visayan Sea, it is imperative for Fisheries Management Area 11 and pertinent Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) through the Management Body to put in place a monitoring and evaluation mechanism that will look into the biological condition of the fisheries resources, and socio-economic impact of this harvest control measure. This science-based intervention of policies and plans that are developed through the participatory mechanism of the Fisheries Management Area will be most helpful,” Ms. Ramos said.

Oceana touted the Sardines Management Plan as an opporunity to take a more participatory approach to fisheries management, engaging fisherfolk, local governments and civil society groups.

Sardines are important for food security going forward, in the context of the pandemic and climate change, she said, adding that the needs of fishing communities must be looked after.

On the enforcement side, Ms. Ramos said Oceana backs the use of technology like Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suites (VIIRS) to detect violators, as well as tracking devices in commercial fishing vessels.

VIIRS is used to determine vessel locations at night.

Joyce Sierra, the Oceana Communications manager, told BusinessWorld that Oceana is asking for FMAs and law enforcement agencies to enforce the commercial fishing ban in municipal waters alongside the closed seasons in the Visayas Sea and Zamboanga Peninsula.

“Part of the plan is to determine the impact of the close season and support the provision of job opportunities during the close season. As we continue to grapple with the challenges of the pandemic, climate change and fisheries management, our fisherolk bear the heavier burden than any other sections of our population. Ironically, they are our food producers that suffer the most from hunger, barely able to give their children their basic necessities of shelter and education,” Ms. Ramos said. — Angelica Y. Yang