Int’l NGO urges gov’t to manage sardine stock

By Mavic Conde


An international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s ocean has urged the government’s fisheries agency and stakeholders to conduct a participatory process to address the challenges in managing its sardine stocks in the Bicol region, which is part of the country’s sardine-rich fisheries management area in response to the incident of sardine spoilage in Bulan, Sorsogon last month.


The group, Oceana, Philippines, said there is a compelling urgency for stakeholders to work together to sustainably manage this commercially important and cheap protein source for many Filipinos.


“It is heartbreaking to see the sardines caught by fishers being wasted because there are no buyers," Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said.


For Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Bicol spokesperson Nonie Enolva, it was also an issue of overfishing for even though it was sold at a very cheap price of P20 per basin, the fishers still had a hard time selling them.


"With the oversupply of sardines, locally known as law-law or tamban, vendors decide to just throw them away or abandon them in a corner near the fish port or market since they spoil faster," Enolva said. She added that even though there's a sardine factory in Sorsogon, it only buys fresh catch.


The Bicol region provides the second-highest production of tamban and tunsoy, next to Zamboanga Peninsula based on the 2019 Philippine Statistics Authority Report on the annual production (mt) of sardines. There are 20 sardines species that were found in FMA 7, including Sardinella lemuru (lawlaw) and Sardinella gibbosa (alubaybay/tamban/tunsoy).


According to Oceana, the participatory process is crucial in adopting the National Sardines Management Plan(NSMP) to identify the conditions and problems in the areas needing policies and intervention support. "The NSMP is a comprehensive roadmap to ensure that we are able to sustainably manage our sardines resources in the ocean while our fisherfolks are in a better position to earn money to sustain their daily needs,” Ramos said.


Small-scale fisherfolk in the area have no access to ice that often results in spoilage of their catch, according to lawyer Roger Joseph Guzman who discussed the legal and policy framework for the sardine management in the Philippines during the recent orientation and workshop for the NSMP for FMA 7.


Moreover, the workshop participants proposed that areas with surplus should be linked to large-scale canneries to further lessen wastage. Currently, there is only one cannery in Bicol and some LGUs do not allow sardine fishers to trade with larger canneries.


Romy Gupong, who is the Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council representative in the FMA 7 management body, said the planning workshop being conducted by Oceana with other stakeholders is a big help in the journey towards the integration and eventual implementation of the NSMP.