Zamboanga City – In a spectacle reminiscent of the olden days when there was so much fish and so little people in the country, a phone video taken in a fishing ground in Labason, Zamboanga del Norte showed waves of “Tamban” (Sardinella Lemuru) ditching on shore at the end of the 3-month Closed-Fishing-Season which served as a dramatic proof of how the fish population increased dramatically when left undisturbed during the spawning season.
The video taken by residents of Labason, Zamboanga del Norte at the end of the 2016 Closed Fishing Season was presented to me yesterday during the consultation with fisheries stakeholders in the Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawitawi following the ceremonies which marked the opening of the 9-month fishing season here.
The Labason “tamban” ditching spectacle was one of two incidents which occurred in the Zamboanga Peninsula following the implementation of the 3-Month Closed Fishing Season initiative by local stakeholders seven years ago, according to Jaydrick Yap, president of Southern Philippines Fishing Federation which initiated the closed fishing season declaration.
Another incident, although not recorded by video, was reported in a fishing ground in Dipolog City where fishermen waded into the shore filled with sardines at knee-deep.
The accounts are not just anecdotal because the fishing statistics showed dramatic increases in the sardines catch every year since the Closed Fishing Season was implemented.
The catch of “Tamban” increased from 143,060 metric tons in 2016 to 152,283 metric tons in 2017.
The closed fishing season did not only result in higher sardine population but also increased the sighting of big and high-value fish species that feed on sardines.
Since the start of the closed fishing season, the once rare big fish species—Tuna, Tangigue, Salay-Salay Ginto [scad]—are gradually coming back to the point that even the people in General Santos City are getting their tuna supply from Zamboanga Peninsula, Ed Lim, head of one of the biggest sardines manufacturing companies based in Zamboanga City said.
The abundant sardines catch has resulted in the sprouting of 11 Fish Canning facilities in the city which now employs over 50,000 people, including those who man the fishing boats which operate nine months a year.
It has now grown into a P20-B industry which exports canned and bottled sardines to many countries in the world, including Europe.
The reinvigorated fishing industry in the Peninsula has also resulted in the reduction of the poverty incidence among fisherfolk families in Zamboanga City from over 40% to 34% in just seven years.
The Sardine Closed Fishing Season was initiated by stakeholders and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in 2011 and after three years, BFAR issued Administrative Circular 255 to institutionalise the conservation of sardines in the waters of Zamboanga Peninsula.
Following the successful Zamboanga Experience, Closed fishing seasons are also observed in other fishing grounds like the Visayan Sea, Northeastern Palawan, Davao Gulf and other parts of the country.
(Video provided by fishermen of Labason, Zamboanga del Norte and shared by Ed Lim, PERMEX)