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Notes on the Practical Tools of Assessing the Status of Marine Capture Fishery and Possible Regulatory Measures

(by Edmundo Enderez - April 20, 2012)

This paper attempts to present the status of the marine capture fishery in Romblon province based on the practical assessment tools such as Catch Pattern and the Fish Ruler as well as the possible regulatory measures in order to manage and develop the marine fisheries within the context of sustainable development. 1. There is limitation on the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in the municipal waters of Romblon province based on its bathymetry that indicates 90% of its water is considered as Oceanic (200 meters in depth). Please refer to the Google Satellite Map below indicating the possible 15-km municipal water limit and potential fish catch prepared by the author.

2. More or less 10% of Romblon provinces 725,000 waters or 7,250 has depth of up to 200 meters. Potential fish catch or MSY = 7,250 has x 100 kgs/ha/yr = 7,250 m.t. The oceanic water potential fish catch or MSY is 2 -5 kgs per ha per year or 3.5 kgs (average) x 71,750 has = 2,510 m.t. per ha per year. For both continental and oceanic fishery, total potential production could be 7,250 mt. plus 2,510 m.t. = 9,760 m.t. But since the fish carrying capacity of key fish habitat like

coral reefs and seagrass bed is reduced due to their degraded condition, the potential MSY is also reduced. On the other hand overfished condition of species of fish that directly and indirectly depend on said fish habitats has brought the actual marine fish catch to lower level which is 7,102.5 m.t. (see Graph below) which represents 62.5% of the potential production. 3. Based on the Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS) data, the annual marine municipal fish catch in the province of Romblon showed a significant increasing trend from 3,605 m.t. in 1998 to 6,673 m.t. in 2002. Between 2002 and 2011, volume of annual marine municipal fish catch which had been lower than that of 2002 showed an erratic and leveling off trend that peaked to 6,497 m.t. in 2009 and slightly declined to 6,478 m.t. in 2011. On the other hand, the recorded annual marine commercial fish catch was 55 m.t. in 2003 that gradually increased up to 624.6 m.t. in 2011. 4. Between 2003 and 2009, the average marine fish catch was 6,544 m.t. or an annual increase of 0.7 percent as against average population growth rate of 2% (NSCB data). This condition of the marine municipal fishery sector had contributed to the increase in the population poverty incidence of the province from 42.2% in 2003 to 54% in 2009.

5. CRM was started by the government in 1995 and continues up to the present. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have also implemented their CRM-type of program in partnership with major stakeholders like LGUs. The CRM efforts appeared to have positive effects on the capture fishery as manifested by the fact that the decreasing pattern in annual fish catch that occurred between 2002 and 2006 was reversed to a gradually increasing pattern between 2006 to 2011.

6. But since the countrys marine fishery is multi-species, there is a need to study the pattern in annual catch of the major species of fish caught. Using the BAS data on marine municipal fish catch, there is need to make a Graph on the annual volume of catch of the major species of fish for the period 2002 -2011 and Table on volume of catch in the last 2 years as shown below.

a.

Based on the above Graph and Table on catch, determine the species of fish which are on

the generally increasing trend for the year 2002-2011 and species which continue to be generally on the increasing trend for the last 3-4 years and also those that continue to increase in catch in the last 2 years (2010-2011). All the above data are then presented in the Table below.

b. From the pattern of change in the annual catch (which may be called Catch Pattern) of each of the major species, it can be practically determined by the rule of thumb if the catch is sustainable or to be regulated which requires regulatory measures. c. Only 10 out of 28 major species of fish caught or 36% are still considered sustainable. This means that a very high 64% of the total number of major species caught can be considered overfished or to be regulated. d. The species with sustainable catch in the order of volume are: dilis, matangbaka, alumahan, bisugo, dalagang bukid, salaysalay, maya-maya, pusit, danggit and espada; while those considered to be overfished and must be regulated are: all migratory tuna species (tulingan, gulyasan, bonito (bantalaan), tambakol and bariles); small pelagic fish (tamban, galunggong, tunsoy,hasa-hasa, borador and tulis); coral-reef associated species (saramulyete, loro, talakitok, and lapu-lapu) as well as sapsap and banak. e. The pattern of change in the annual volume catch or the Catch Pattern approach should be supplemented by determining the change in the average size of the species through the Fish Ruler approach which is being considered by fisheries authorities as a practical approach in

determining whether a particular species of fish based on their size can be subjected to fishing or not. Under the Fish Ruler approach, fisheries authorities have determined the minimum size of each of the major species of fish that can be subjected to fishing. These are: alumahan 17.5cm, matangbaka 14cm, galunggong 17cm, hasahasa 15.5cm and bagabaga 17.5cm.

f. In applying both the Catch Pattern approach and the Fish Ruler approach, there is a need to determine the actual average size of matangbaka and alumahan considered as sustainable and compare their sizes to the allowed minimum size under the Fish Rule. If the actual size is bigger than the one prescribed in the Fish Rule, then there is very strong scientific evidence or basis for saying that matangbaka and alumahan are being caught at sustainable level while coral reef associated fish like loro, lapu-lapu, saramulyete and talakitok are overfished. The Fish Ruler approach therefore can serve as an instrument to confirm the validity of determining the status of particular specie of fish whether overfished or sustainable through the Catch Pattern approach. The participatory approach in data gathering, analysis and recommendation should involve the fishers so that whatever regulatory measures that will be recommended can be readily accepted and implemented by the fishers themselves. 7. RA 8550 stipulates the regulatory measures that will address the problem of overfishing in order to make the fishery sustainable. Regulatory measures must be stipulated in an LGU ordinance in accordance with BFAR 8550 and BFAR Fisheries Administrative Order. Execution of the ordinance is through the Fishery Law Enforcement Team composed of Fish Warden and representatives from concerned LGUs/LGAs, POs and NGOs. Apprehension cases if not settled amicably must be filed with the courts for proper and immediate disposition. Some of the regulatory measures are as follows: a. Fishing Nets Mesh size limit

b. c. d. e.

Closed season or declaring a particular area of the municipal water as off-limit to fishing activities for a certain period of time Delineation of municipal waters and Establishment of fisheries management areas Limited entry in a particular fishing ground Catch Quota or Total Allowable Catch which sets the limit on the volume of fish catch

8. The most practical measures and which are being implemented in many fishing grounds of the country are: (a) limiting the mesh size of nets to prevent catching of undersize fish pursuant to the Fish Rule approach and (b) declaring a ban on fishing in specific areas like bays, gulf, passage, channel and particular fishing ground where species of fish considered to be overfished are in abundance in the advent of spawning, migration and feeding. The catch quota approach which is practiced in advanced countries has not yet been adopted in the country. 9. It must be emphasized that regulatory measures is not meant to deprive the poor fishers with source of income and food but rather it is intended to restore fish biomass to its optimum level together with intervention to restore the fish carrying capacity of the fish habitat up to its possible maximum level. Fish habitats such as mangrove, corals, seagrass and the body of sea and ocean water are being degraded due mainly to mangrove conversion, destructive methods of utilizing fisheries resources, pollution and siltation. But it has been said that the ratio of the fish biomass level relative to the fish carrying capacity is much higher than the ratio of the present fish carrying capacity of the fish habitat relative to its possible maximum level. Based on the article titled Study Uncovers a Predictable Sequence Toward Coral Reef Collapse (Science Daily -Sep. 28, 2011) published by the Wildlife Conservation Society, there is indication that coral reefs that have lots of corals and appear healthy may, in fact, be heading toward collapse as shown by the following observations: a. well-protected coral reef areas can support 1000-1500 kilograms of reef fish of various species per hectare; b. when the area is fished down below 1000 kilograms, the early warning signs -- like increased seaweed growth and urchin activity -- begin to appear; c. when the area is further fished down to 300-600 kilograms per hectare, there appeared to be a "window" of what is known as maximum sustainable yield; d. but when the fish stock drops below 300 kilograms per hectare, the reef is in real trouble and below 300 kilograms per hectare we see a series of dramatic changes on reefs and this is where you get on a real slippery slope; e. the metric used by most managers to gauge the health of reef systems by coral cover is the last threshold before ecosystem failure; overfished reefs can appear healthy and then shift to algae dominated seascapes. f. the recommendation is to measure the biomass of fish which is set at not lower than the optimum level of 300 kgs/ha alongside with measuring the coral cover to identify the early

warning rather than the final sign of reef collapse. The value is about of the maximum fish carrying capacity of coral reef set at 1,000 to 1,500 kgs/ha. Well-recovered coral reef just like the Sumilon reserve in Cebu has been reported to provide the small fishers using passive gears used in the fishing zone with catch at an MSY level of 365 kgs per hectare per year. However, failure to attain said optimum level of fish biomass in the coral reef in certain areas which are being managed for years through the establishment of marine protected area (MPA) like marine reserve and fish sanctuary could indicate two things: first, the coral reef has not significantly recovered; and second, even if it has recovered in terms of increasing area of live coral cover, the fishing pressure in the fishing zone could be relatively high causing overfishing of e.g. parrotfish (loro), grouper (lapu-lapu), goatfish (saramulyete) and jackfish (talakitok). 10. The ecosystem-based approach in fisheries management which is discussed in item no. 9 above has been tried for adoption in advanced countries as an improvement to the precautionary approach.. The ecosystem-based approach may not be enough considering the fact that the Philippines has not yet reached the required level of governance that empowers major stakeholders and its poverty incidence is very high as manifested by the lack of political will and too much fishing pressure from the impoverished fisherfolk, respectively. It is for this reason that the sustainable development principles, namely: empowerment, equity, system-orientation and sustainability have been tried for adoption by both the government and non-governmental organizations in coastal resource management (CRM)-type of programs they are implementing. This means that improvement in the political economic condition of the country, particularly in the coastal and fishing communities will determine the level of significant improvement in the conservation of fish habitats and fish stocks.