Sustainability of PHL fisheries at risk due to mismanagement, experts say
Fisheries experts on Thursday said that Filipino small-scale fishermen and fish pen owners should learn how to manage risks effectively to reduce the negative impacts of aquaculture on their fishes and on the environment.
Stephen Hall, director-general of the The Worldfish Center (TWC), said Filipino fisherfolk share the same set of challenges as other small-scale farmers everywhere. Fishermen have to grapple with unhealthy fish stocks, climate change, and pollution from fish farms.
Hall, in a press briefing organized by Seaweb at the 10th International Seafood Summit, said nations usually have sufficient environmental policies in place to regulate aquaculture and fisheries.
However, there is “something to be desired” in how these policies are implemented, he said. “There are clearly more things to do at the national, regional, and global level,” he noted.
The WFC has warned that the Philippines’ fisheries sector is vulnerable to the effects of climate change —rising sea levels, increasing water temperatures and changing weather patterns are all likely to have ongoing impacts on the productivity of the industry.
Despite the increasing and high demand for fisheries products, fish is becoming expensive for the country’s poor due to dwindling stocks and increased costs of production, the WFC added.
In the recent years, fish pond owners in Taal Lake have seen major fish kills. Fisheries officials blamed toxic wastes and crowded fish pens for the fish kill that destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of fisherfolk on the lake’s shore.
Fish cages in river systems in Central Luzon have been blamed for the soil erosion that resulted in floods during the monsoon season.
Fishermen who engage in aquaculture should learn to manage risks on their own, Hall said. The last things fishermen want to see are fish kills, diseased fish stocks, and clogged waterways. Producers, he noted, should form learning groups and share best practices on aquaculture methods.
Froujke Kruijssen, of the Sustainable Ethical Aquaculture Trade, said Thai fishermen have learned innovative methods to reduce the negative impacts of their industry on the environment.
Both experts said fishermen should realize that there are incentives —better quality fishes, higher prices for their products— in making aquaculture sustainable. “If the incentive is there, there’s a lot of willingness to work together,” she said.
Asia accounts for 90% of global aquaculture production, with China alone accounting for more than 25% of world production.
In the Philippines, about half of the seafood produced are from aquaculture farms.
According to the Department of Agriculture, fish production in the Philippines is estimated at 6 million metric tons a year.
About 55 percent comes from aquaculture and the rest is caught from the sea. Of the total aquaculture production, 40 percent is fish while seaweeds account for the rest.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the farmed species in the Philippines include milkfish, tilapia, and shrimp. Carp and seaweed, which is processed for export, is a major dollar earner for the country. — TJD, GMA News