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Fish shortage looms, says Greenpeace

Pole and line method touted as a possible fishing alternative

  • ucanews.com, General Santos City
  • Philippines
  • July 18, 2012
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The Philippines is running out of fish due to unsustainable fishing practices, pro-environment group Greenpeace said today.

"We are running out of fish and running out of time. For a country known for marine biodiversity, there are very few fish left to catch," Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told reporters.

Greenpeace supports adopting pole and line fishing, which has a lower by-catch rate of unwanted fish than other methods, meaning it is more sustainable for fish species overall. Cinches said the government’s recent plan to import fish from other countries is a "clear sign" that the Philippine seas have now collapsed.

But the government denied any plans to import more fish in the future and said production was sufficient.

“We have an adequate fish supply for our domestic requirement, and we are also exporting,” said Asis Perez, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

The country produced about 800,000 metric tons of fish and fisheries products last year, and only imported fish the country doesn't have, like salmon, and raw materials for fisheries, he said.

The government's plan is to regulate imported products to eliminate the problem of smuggling, Perez said.

In a report last year. the World Bank noted that if the present rapid human population growth and declining trend in fish production continue, only 10 kg of fish will be available per Filipino per year by 2020, as opposed to the 28.5 kg in 2003.

"Without any change in fish consumption and no active human population management program, domestic demand for fish will reach 3.2 billion kilograms by 2020, given the projected population growth rate of the country," the World Bank said in its Philippine Environment Monitor.

Perez said the Philippine government knows the fish catches have been declining over the years, but he pointed out that it is a worldwide trend.

In response to the problem,  the government has banned all unsustainable ways of fishing and has also augmented BFAR’s law enforcement unit, Perez said. Since he joined the bureau last year, the number of fisheries officers has jumped from just four to 200.

The government also supports the pole and line method of fishing, which is favored in the Maldives and other Pacific Island countries for catching tuna, he said.

Tuna producers in General Santos City in Mindanao are meeting on July 19 to discuss how to adopt the method.

"There is huge potential for [pole and line] fishing in the Philippines. Not only is it safe for the environment, but it is also economically advantageous to fisherman who will continue to engage in it, as we have seen in the fishing economy of the Maldives,” said Athif Shakoor, secretary general of the Pole and Line Federation of Maldives.

The Philippines is among the largest fish producers in the world. Annual total fisheries yield is estimated to be worth around US$70 billion to $110 billion, equivalent to about 2-4 percent of the country's GDP.

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