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Managing a natural resource

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A spokesman of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said fisheries production in the West Philippine Sea dropped by seven percent between 2021 and 2022, despite being one of the richest fishing grounds in the archipelago.

BFAR spokesman Nazario Briguera said that based on Philippine Statistics Authority data, production was down to 275,872 metric tons of fish in 2022, from 295,332MT in the previous year.

“When we say total production in the West Philippine Sea, we are not just talking about Pag-asa Island, we are referring to the total production of provinces fronting the West Philippine Sea,” Briguera said.

He was however quick to clarify that the decrease in production can also be attributed to the typhoons that hindered fishermen from setting out to sea in 2022, and not just the maritime conflict in the area.

Still, the reduction in production of 19,460 MT is significant, considering that the output of the West Philippine Sea represents 6.36 percent of the country’s total fisheries production in 2022. Fisheries production from this part of the country covers both the municipal and commercial fisheries sectors of 5 regions. BFAR data also indicates that as of January 23, there are at least 373,733 fisherfolk that depend on the West Philippine Sea.

“The drop in fisheries production can be attributed to many factors, including the frequent visit of typhoons in the country,” Briguera said as more than P4 million in assistance was delivered to two fisherfolk associations in Pag-asa Island.

The West Philippine Sea, being one of the most bountiful fishing grounds in the country, as quantified by its contribution to the total fisheries production, needs to be protected as well as kept sustainable, for the good of the nation. A significant drop in production, no matter what the cause, should be reason for alarm and our government must be taking such developments seriously.

If the drop in production is caused by typhoons, then there can’t be a lot we can do against the awesome power of nature. However, if the cause turns out to be man-made, whether from within the country or from destructive and exploitative threats from beyond our borders, it is the duty of government to do something about it.

Not many countries are blessed with a natural resource as bountiful as the WPS. Protecting that resource from trespassers, ensuring its sustainability, and educating and equipping our fisherfolk on the best and safest ways to harvest that bounty, will have to be among the priorities of our government as we move forward.*

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