BFAR urges LGUs to ban bottom trawl operations

By Paulo DS. Papa


BULA, Camarines Sur --- The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Bicol urged the local government units surrounding the San Miguel bay to implement the Republic Act No. 8550 which prohibits the conduct of bottom trawl operations.

Bottom trawling, also referred to as “dragging” is a fishing method that caused destruction of corals as natural habitat of numerous marine species. Few corals in the seafloor means few chance of marine life reproduction and cycle.


This fishing method uses heavy boards that threaten to crush the corals once pulled by a mechanized fishing vessel. The net attached in the boards will instantly trap any kinds of fishes that swam out of the deformed corals.


To address the illegal fishing method, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Agriculture (DA) and BFAR signed the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2018-03 in November 28, 2018 for the purpose of strengthen the implementation of the ban on bottom trawl operations within municipal waters.


Nonie Enolva, BFAR – Bicol spokesperson said that the local government officials of the towns located along the shorelines of San Miguel bay shall implement the ban within their areas of jurisdiction. These towns are Mercedes, Camarines Norte; municipalities of Cabusao, Calabanga, Tinambac, and Siruma in Camarines Sur.


The policy issuance based on the circular that seeks to attain the following objectives:


a) Local Government Units (LGUs) to review and adopt Municipal Fisheries Ordinances (MFOs) ensuring the effective ban on bottom trawl;


b) Coordinate Non-Governors Associations (NGAs) and LGUs in the exercise of their mandate under law;


c) Encourage voluntary surrender of trawling gears and paraphernalia;


d) Prevent and eliminate trawling operations within municipal waters;


e) Ensure food security and sustainability within municipal waters by implementing the ban on trawling operations.


The circular covers all cities and municipalities in the country and directed to all city and municipal mayors, Sanggunians in all levels, municipal and city fisheries and aquatic resources management councils, municipal agriculture officers, public employment and service officers or their equivalent, and others concerned.


Until now, according to Enolva, bottom trawling remains to be unabated despite the enforcement of the circular.


In response, the Fisheries Management Area 7 (FMA - 7) studies the ecosystems – based approach on fisheries management in San Miguel bay, a huge fishing area covered by Mercedes town in Camarines Norte, municipalities of Cabusao, Calabanga, Tinambac and Siruma in Camarines Sur.


She said that the study in the bay is intended to identify what kind of harvest control rule and reference point shall be implemented within the area, considering about 30 fishing gears used in the bay, including heavy boards as illegal.


She said, the study will also result to a creation of plans on how the FMA - 7 will implement such rules by the cooperation of BFAR as the lead convener, the local government unit and stakeholders.


She elaborated that the DA issued the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 263 sometimes in 2019 that divided the waters of the country by 12 FMAs. FMAs are multisectoral management bodies that aims to conserve and manage fisheries in the Philippine waters.


The FMA - 7 covers the Bicol region, which is composed of about 40 coastal towns, Quezon province with five coastal towns and Eastern Visayas which has 39 coastal municipalities.


When asked about fish stocks in San Miguel bay she replied that the province produced 54,000 metric tons of fish last year. The fish produced from the province was caught from the San Miguel and Lamon bays and Ragay gulf.


She disclosed that about 80 percent of the fishes produced last year was tamban, also called law-law.