By Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III

The second most important subsector—next to land crops—of our country’s agriculture industry is fisheries. It contributed 1.6% (Php197 billion) of our gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, providing food (mainly fish), livelihoods, and export earnings to millions of Filipinos. In 2013, the Philippines ranked 7th among the world’s top fisheries producing countries.

Philippine fisheries are classified into the commercial, municipal, and aquaculture sub-sectors. “Commercial fisheries” refers to those fishing in marine waters beyond 15 kilometers from the shoreline with boats of more than 3 gross tons.

“Municipal fisheries” is fishing within 15 kilometers from the shoreline with boats (or without) of 3 or less gross tons. Aquaculture deals with the farming of fish and other aquatic species.

(Story continues after photo.)

In 2014, the fisheries production of the country was 4,689,084 metric tons (mt). The commercial and municipal fisheries contributed 23.7% and 26.4%, respectively, to the total production while aquaculture’s share was 49.9%. The common fish species caught by commercial and municipal fishers in marine waters are tunas (e.g., yellowfin), small pelagics (e.g., roundscad), and demersal fishes (e.g., slipmouth). For aquaculture, the main species produced are seaweeds, milkfish, tilapia, shrimp, mud crab, and oysters/mussels.

There is a declining trend in the fisheries production of our country. From 2009 (with 5,079,977 mt) to 2014, there was an 8% decrease. The major issues confronting the industry are the high poverty incidence (39.2%) among municipal fisherfolk, the depletion of fish stocks due to overfishing, the degradation of fisheries habitats, and post-harvest losses of up to 40%.

A medium-term (2016-2020) Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) has been prepared by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in consultation with more than 500 stakeholders from the academe, private sector, government, and civil societies. Production targets and strategies for achieving them have been set in the roadmap to reduce the incidence of poverty among small fisherfolk and post-harvest losses, and for implementing science-based and sustainable management of fisheries resources.

(Story continues after photo.)

For increasing the productivity of capture fisheries (commercial and municipal), among the strategies are: (1) identifying, developing and/or negotiating potential areas from inland and marine waters through partnerships between government and private sectors, and strengthen security for fishing operation especially in the West Philippine Sea; (2) intensifying information, education and communication (IEC) activities on resource conservation measures and compliance of fisheries laws; (3) management measures; (4) promoting the use of appropriate and updated technologies; and (5) facilitating livelihood opportunities and financial services to municipal fisherfolk.

Among the strategies for enhancing aquaculture are: (1) securing quality fry/seed supply through coordinated investments in propagation facilities (broodstock, hatcheries, nurseries, laboratories); (2) institutionalizing Good Aquaculture Practices (GAqP) for key commodities and promoting sustainable aquaculture; (3) assuring quality and traceability of aquaculture inputs and outputs; (5) optimizing operation of mariculture parks; and (6) ensuring climate/disaster resilience of the aquaculture sector.

(Story continues after photo.)

The strategies for reducing post-harvest losses are, among others: (1) improving fisheries post-harvest and cold chain technologies and facilities; (2) increasing production of value-added products from fish and fisheries byproducts/processing wastes; (3) improving the compliance of fishing establishments with relevant national and international regulations; and 4) increasing and strengthening fisheries-based livelihood and entrepreneurial programs in coastal communities.

The targets set after 5 years of implementing the roadmap are: 1% and 5% annual growth increases for municipal and commercial fisheries, respectively; and 4% increase for milkfish, 6% for tilapia, 10% for shrimp, 25% for seaweeds, 10% for oysters/mussels, and 5.4% increase for mud crab for aquaculture. A reduction of postharvest losses from 25% to 15% after 5 years is also envisaged.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2016 issue.