THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said fishermen should make more use of inshore, municipal waters to boost the government’s ability to tax and modernize the industry.

BFAR National Director Eduardo B. Gongona said taxing boats in undisputed Philippine waters could raise as much as P24 billion for the government, which can be used to fund upgrades to the fishing sector.

Ngayon ang battle cry namin (Our battle cry is) take care of municipal waters to take care of the whole fishing industry,” he said during the first “Kapihan at Talakayan Tungo sa Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan,” a briefing on the state of fisheries.

In the first quarter of 2019, fisheries output rose 0.97% year-on-year after contracting 4.58% a year earlier.

“Fishing now becomes not a right but a privilege,” he said.

“We are losing hundreds of billions of pesos, and (the cure) is to protect and manage our municipal waters. Doon na lang muna tayo sa strategy na yun (Let’s focus on that strategy) kasi (because) municipal waters are where the fish habitats are… where the food chain of all the fishes (are),” he said.

Fishermen classified as eligible to ply municipal waters are those using fishing vessels of three gross tons or less, or those who do not require boats.

Municipal waters include streams, lakes, inland bodies of water and tidal waters within a municipality which are not classified as protected areas.

Based on data from BFAR, municipal fishing production in 2017 was 1.13 metric tons (MT), with Region IV-B accounting for 125,265.66 MT, followed by Region V at 125,132.98 MT, and Region VI at 123,888 MT.

He also said fishermen have the potential to earn more in municipal waters.

“Based on our records, there is more money in galunggong (round scad) than in tuna. Of the P139 billion that fisheries have contributed, P39 billion lang ang galing sa (was generated by) tuna, while for pelagic fish like galunggong, with a small percentage of several high value fish, it’s almost P100 billion,” he said.

“We should be discussing how to fill the gaps so that we can catch all the catchable fish in municipal waters. Galunggong only live two years… and if they are not be captured, they will migrate to other places outside municipal waters,” he said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang