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Closed season in Visayan Sea lifted

The Department of Agriculture–Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources lifted the three-month closed fishing season in the Visayan Sea midnight Tuesday.

Under the Fisheries Administrative Order 167-3 series of 2013, the government places the Visayan Sea and its vicinities under closed fishing season, from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15 annually in order to ensure the protection and conservation of sardines, herring (Clupeidae), and mackerels (Scombridae) in the fishing ground during their spawning period, the BFAR 6 said in its press release.

The Visayan Sea is surrounded by 33 cities and municipalities of the provinces of Negros, Capiz, Iloilo, Cebu, and Masbate.

In Western Visayas, areas covered by the closure included the territorial waters of EB Magalona, Victorias City, Manapla, Sagay City, Cadiz City, and Escalante City in northern Negros, Barotac Nuevo, Anilao, Banate, Barotac Viejo, Ajuy, Concepcion, San Dionisio, Batad, Estancia, Balasan, and Carles in northern Iloilo, part of Capiz, including Roxas City, Pilar, Pontevedra, President Roxas, and Panay.

Around 20 percent of the total production of these fish species comes from Western Visayas.

The Visayan Sea is also home to hectares of corals, mangroves, seagrasses, and marine protected areas.

Recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show an overall Philippine production of 391,175.92 MT of sardines in 2020. Of this volume, 15,782.52 MT or 4.03 percent came from the Visayan Sea.

There are six major fishing grounds and several other fishing areas for sardines in the country.

“Knowing its importance to our country’s economy and overall food security, it is our duty to protect these species from further degradation using a science-based approach to fisheries management, parallel with the strategies of the OneDA approach to effect transformation in the agro-fishery sector,” DA-BFAR national director Eduardo Gongona said.

Gongona added that conservation measures, like the sardine closed season, are integrated in the National Sardines Management Plan that the DA-BFAR is adopting.

Under the NSMP, the Bureau hopes to work toward the sustainability of the sardine industry in the country, and aims to establish improved science-based indicators for the sustainability of sardine stocks, improve distribution of benefits among sardine fisherfolk communities, and strengthen science-based management for sustainable sardine fisheries industry.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who champions for science-based policies and programs, also advocates for fisheries management and conservation to ensure the sustainability of the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources.

He also backs the full implementation of fishery laws and strengthening the skills of law enforcers to effectively implement these laws.

On the span of the implementation of sardine closed season in the Visayan Sea, the DA-BFAR, through its Fisheries Protection and Law Enforcement Group, conducted land-based and seaborne patrol operations, and monitoring and surveillance operations through the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Since November 2020, the Bureau deployed eight floating assets and 38 field personnel in the Visayan Sea, and apprehended four vessels for unauthorized fishing and one for the use of destructive methods of fishing.*

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