Philippine reefs’ mapping proposed

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has several vessels that can be used not only to patrol fishing grounds but also to help map all of the country’s coral reefs.

On the other hand, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) has an oceanographic ship that can work on such activities and help track down the traffic of pelagic fish species.

Mapping of all marine resources has been advanced by two experts from the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) who said that “knowing just how large the country’s coral reefs are would help us determine the population of first-class fish at any time.”

An NFRDI official who had worked with UN agencies stressed that “it is a pity that the country still has to plunge headlong into mapping our aquatic habitats and with them the volume of fish available for catching.”

Unfortunately, they explained, “these coral reefs are a premium to foreign fishermen who poach on them and bring in their catch to their home markets.”

Asked to comment on the matter, lawyer Rodolfo Paz, chief of the Philippine Fishport Development Authority (PFDA), said “we really have to know the status of our fisheries since it is vital to my agency’s operations.”

He noted that in parts of Masbate and in other remote islands, prime fish species like grouper (lapu-lapu), end up being sold as dried fish, along with snapper (maya-maya), for the simple reason that they lack cold storage facilities.

On the other hand, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said he could not believe the claim that 10 fishing grounds out of 13 had been overfished and noted that fishermen had actually “reduced their fishing trips owing to the high cost of fuel.”

Moreover, small fishermen can hardly be accused of using fine nets and long lines that trawl the seabed to catch fish, he added, “since only large companies are engaged in these types of operations, with their bycatch including juveniles and even the spawners and large volumes of organisms which pelagic fish consume.”

Subsistence fisherfolk and hook-and-line fishermen actually help maintain the fish population equilibrium, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamalakaya) said, and 1.3 million of them provide half of the country’s fish requirements.

Mariano, Pamalakaya and NFRDI officials actually opposed the purported plan to import fish since that rob 1.8 million fisherfolk of their livelihood and compel them to work on land to receive slave wages.