THE ANNUAL three-month ban on sardine fishing in waters around the Zamboanga Peninsula started Dec. 1, with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office leading a formal send-off ceremony on Monday for the teams that will patrol the waters. BFAR-9 Regional Director Isidro M. Velayo, Jr., in a statement, called on stakeholders for their cooperation “to manage, conserve and protect our fishery resources through the effective and smooth implementation of the three-month closed season for sardines.” At the same time, Mr. Velayo gave a reminder on penalties for violators under BFAR Administrative Circular (BAC) No. 255, which established the “Closed Season for the Conservation of Sardines.” The ban covers East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait, and Sibuguey Bay. The Dec. 1-March 1 period coincides with the spawning period of the various sardines varieties. In March last year, BFAR reported a steady annual increase in sardines catch since the closed fishing season was implemented.
From 137,143 metric tons (MT) in 2015, the yield has gone up to 143, 060 MT in 2016 and 152, 283 MT in 2017. The Zamboanga Peninsula Region accounts for almost 50% of the country’s sardines production, according to BFAR’s National Sardine Management Framework Plan 2019-2024. “Sardines are among the most commercially important pelagic species in the country, accounting for 22% of the total commercial fisheries production in 2017,” BFAR said. There are at 11 major sardine canning companies based in Zamboanga City. Closed fishing seasons are also implemented in other parts of the country, including the Visayan Sea, northeastern Palawan, and Davao Gulf. BFAR rolls out financing and alternative livelihood programs for affected fishing communities during the ban.