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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, November 8, 2019
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What it means to have
a career in fisheries

Ninfa Leonardia

Just last month, the Professional Regulation Commission held the licensure exams for professional fisheries technologists. I sat down with two passers, Jessa Yramis of Inayauan and Carmela Ellaga of Bulata, in the municipality of Cauayan, both amazing young women starting strong in their careers and are set to have an oath-taking on November 23.

Jessa and Carmela both graduated cum laude from the Binalbagan campus of the Carlos Hilado Memorial State University. For four years, they were scholars of the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, and the Danjugan Island Environmental Education Program. As they emerge as leaders, I wanted to feature them here to contribute to a bit more understanding of what it means to have a career in Fisheries.

Fisheries is not just about fish; it goes beyond the study of fish, which is ichthyology. Fisheries looks into the ecological and economic roles of fish and aquatic resources, the environment where they thrive, and the sustainability and security of our food.

“Give a man a fish and he will not be hungry for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he will not be hungry forever”, we have learned in school. We might add, “Teach a man how and why not to overfish, and his children and their children will not be hungry forever”.

The fisheries licensure exams have four subjects: Aquaculture, which at its simplest, is the farming or growing fish for production, Aquatic Resources and Ecology, which covers all that is in the environments of fisheries, species and habitats, and their interactions or relationships, with each other, Capture Fisheries, which is the collection of fishes from the wild, in all natural bodies of water, with various methods and gears, and the regulations to keep fish stocks sustainable, and Postharvest Fisheries, which is after capture or culture, to process, preserve and improve quality of fish, like in canning, fermentation, and drying.

Jessa’s favorite subject is postharvest fisheries – but in the exam, she got surprised that there was a question about the average amount of hair falling from a human being. It has a connection to preparing fish as food, and this knowledge will avoid contamination.

Carmela’s favorite is aquatic resources and ecology, because it does tackle the environment and its conservation so that we will have enough food for the present and future.

As fisheries technicians, they can get jobs in government, like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources under the Department of Agriculture, municipal or city agriculture offices, education, industry such as in fish processing, management, law enforcement, livelihood development, community organizing, and conservation.

Both agree that we need to regulate fishing to stop destructive, unsustainable, and illegal fishing. For instance, trawling is something we need to ban because it can scrape off everything in the seafloor, like coral reefs and the breeding and feeding grounds of fish. But something that they also deeply know is that there are forces that push people to use destructive fishing practices, especially poverty.

Since she graduated, Carmela is working as a community facilitator exploring the socioeconomic environment around fishing. It is in her main interest to study, develop and support alternative and sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities, while fisheries is in decline and under threat of overexploitation and climate change.

In their young age and short experience in Fisheries, Carmela and Jessa feel for poor fishing communities as they live in them. The disparity in the buying and selling prices across different layers of distribution to the market is what they see as one reason why fishers and also farmers – producers in the agricultural sector – are poor.

Despite sometimes being looked down to in terms of profession, when people begin to understand and appreciate the value of fisheries to our economy – more than half of the Filipinos source their protein from fish – Carmela says her dream is that more young people get into professions in agriculture with a mindset on sustainability.

Jessa dreams of being an educator, emphasizing that fisheries and agriculture is the backbone of the community, because they produce our food. These careers help in ensuring food security for generations to come. Also, fisheries professionals are not just confined in classrooms or offices, they explore outside of it in field work where they meet more people, and experience and learn while in the world of aquatic resources.

Fisheries is not just an occupation, it also plays an important role in this planet to sustain the next generations.*

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