Philippine fishery production declined between 2010 and 2017. As a result, since 2010, the contribution of fishery to agriculture growth has been negative.
Caught fish retail prices increased faster in Metro Manila: galunggong rose by 30%from 2010 to 2016 versus pork which increased by 22%, dressed chicken by 16%, and bangus and tilapia by 17% through 2017.
The decline in fishery production is largely a result of the destruction of coral reefs, which serve as habitat for marine organisms. Coral reefs are suffering despite long-term measures outlawing damaging fishing practices.
Among the top seven species of fish, six posted declines between 2010 and 2017 for a total decrease of -22%. Galunggong catch fell by -27%, tulingan -17%, and alumahan -23%. During the period, Philippine population rose by 12.5%.
The seven main species all posted declines. Overall decline was 29%. The decline may not have been all caused by fishing methods inside national boundaries, but the large contraction is a cause of concern. Overfishing in the West Philippine Sea is also a cause for concern.
Galunggong catch decreased by 34%, tamban -35%, tunsoy -25%, and tulingan -18%.
A study (2018) by the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the Landscape Ecology Group at the University of British Columbia (UBC) tracked changes in fishing methods — such as hand line, traps, and nets — used on coral reefs in the Philippines between 1950 and 2010.
Here are their findings:
From the 1960s onwards, the use of relatively sustainable fishing methods like hook and line fishing remained stable. However, there was a marked increase in the use of fishing practices that were less selective and more destructive, even illegal.
About a quarter of the fishers use destructive methods including explosives and poison, which were both outlawed by the Philippine government in 1932. Most other destructive fishing methods were outlawed by the government in 1998.
Despite laws that banned destructive fishing, the use of such illegal methods persisted.
For example, a growing number of fishers used crowbars to break apart corals so they could catch valuable but elusive animals such as abalone.
The UBC study found that total fishing efforts expanded by more than 3.4-times between 1960 and 2010 due to an increase in damaging practices and number of fishers. Previous research found that the increase in fishing effort was even greater when they considered the locations where people fished, since fishing tends to be concentrated in popular areas.
National fishing policies and development funding in the Philippines during the 1970s and 1980s promoted higher catches of marine life and the team found this corresponded to an expansion in the tools and methods used by fishers. Changes in fishing gear use persisted decades after those same policies were stopped in order to promote sustainable fishing.
The lead author said:“If the Philippines were to fully implement its new fishing laws on sustainability, then ocean protection would improve and use of damaging gears would decline… Fisher organizations can also take the lead, as sometimes happens in the Philippines, and cooperate on limiting destruction, ideally with support from local government.”
Overall, supply of caught fishes have declined and prices have dramatically increased. In the medium to long-term, intensive enforcement can limit destruction in fisheries. However, only aquaculture can save the day for future fish supply.
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Rolando T. Dy is the Vice Chair of the M.A.P. AgriBusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific.