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Sorsogon’s seafood depot reduces fish wastage, sustains livelihoods

By Benilda Recebido

There’s no denying that when food is allowed to spoil, it leaves people hungry.

Lawlaw,” a fish that is abundant in Sorsogon waters, is highly perishable and fragile, which makes it more vulnerable to waste.

Like many provinces in the Philippines, Sorsogon has little cold storage and loses much of its perishable food before it reaches the markets.

However, under the leadership of Governor Edwin Hamor, the provincial government of Sorsogon is now addressing this pressing issue.

Sorsogon enticed the Youngstown Sardines, which put up a fish storage plant in the town.

The newly established Youngstown Sardines fish storage plant in Barangay San Isidro, Bulan, Sorsogon is now significantly contributing to the economic growth of the municipality, providing sustainable livelihood for the catchers of “lawlaw” (tamban or sardine).

Bulan is a coastal municipality in Sorsogon province where sardines (Sardinella app.), such as lawlaw, are plentiful. Lawlaw is an important source of income for many families in the locality.

Bulan town’s fishport, seen here, corners the lion’ share of output for the Bicol region’s sardines industry. (Photo credits: Sorsogon 101)

In a study published by European Journal of Humanities and Educational Advancements, there are a total of 4,930 fisherfolks involved in lawlaw trading. It was found out that 60% of sardines’ production is in Bulan fish port. Fishermen sell their harvest to a broker, who either sells them to the wholesale buyers or delivers directly to buyers, which are regularly the sardines’ factories. Sardine companies are the major buyers of lawlaw fish in the municipality.

In 2020, tons of lawlaw (Sadinella spp.) flooded over Bulan coast, however, instead of the fisher folks being fortunate by the big catch of lawlaw, this has resulted in wastage and losses. Fisherfolks got a very meager income because they were haggled by traders. Each banyera or fish tub was sold at P200 or 15% only from the previous P1,700 per fish tub. They did not even recoup the effort and resources they invested for overnight fishing.

On top of the excess catch, absence of a cold storage and trucking facilities and opportunistic intermediaries only added to the fishermen’s woes in the locality.

By opening the doors of the Youngstown Sardines fish storage plant to the lawlaw fisherfolks not just of Bulan but also those of Magallanes town, the plant will not only eliminate the need for intermediaries but will also ensure fair prices for their catch.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered early this year the setting up of several cold storage facilities across the country to address the declining fishery production and reduce post-harvest losses. With the cold storage facilities, fish can be preserved, and there’s no need to throw them away due to spoilage.

According to Sorsogon Provincial Information Officer Salvador Mendoza Jr., the provincial government recognized the positive impact the investment of Youngstown Sardines would have on the province’s employment rate and the livelihood of fisherfolks.

Mendoza also said the 2,808-square meter plant area can accommodate around 50 tons of lawlaw per day. This is expected to increase the income of the lawlaw fisherfolk to more than P700 per fish tub.

Mendoza added that Bulan and Magallanes’ fishing communities will now have a direct way to sell their lawlaw catch, get rid of brokers, eliminate additional costs, and ensure maximum profit for every effort they make.

Mendoza said that the plant has plan of canning sardines and at the same time work on “bagoongan” (salty fish process) so that there will be no wastage at all of said fish.

In the meantime, however, the facility nestled at Barangay San Isidro in Bulan is just a fish storage facility where lawlaw can be sold at a fair price and brought to Manila for the canning process.

Mayor Romeo Gordola, in a statement, said the LGU is in full support of the plant operation and pledged to expedite the processing of all necessary documents for the full operation of the plant including its plans.

With less than a year of operation, the Youngstown Sardines cold storage plant has an initial 30 workers, which is expected to increase as the facility reaches its full blown operations. (Cover photo credits II Sorsogon 101 - PIA 5/Sorsogon)


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