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As the lead region for Fisheries Management Area (FMA) 11, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Office VI convened the Interim Management Board (MB), represented by stakeholders from Bicol Region, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas, on August 30, 2019 in Iloilo City.

Among the main points of discussion include the similarities and differences from the existing fisheries management mechanism; scope, delineation, and jurisdiction; effect of establishment of FMAs to stakeholders such as the commercial and municipal fishing sectors; community participation; fisheries stock status; and functions of the management board.

“Establishing FMAs will be a tool to once and for all effectively manage our fisheries. This meeting is a venue for us to work and resolve various issues on the fragmentation and conflict of jurisdiction between LGUs, among others.”, said BFAR 6 Regional Director Remia A. Aparri in her welcome remarks.

BFAR pushed for the creation of FMAs which shall employ science-based, participatory, and transparent governance framework and mechanism to sustainably manage fisheries as called for by the amended Fisheries Code and consistent with the principles of Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) which looks at not just the ecosystem well-being but also the human well-being through good governance.

“Kung hahayaan po natin na mag-capture lang nang capture at kung hindi po natin bibigyan ng focus ang aquaculture hangang sa mawalan po tayo ng huli, patuloy lang po ang [fishing] pressure sa Visayan Sea. Baka kailangan po nating pagtuunan ng pansin ang aquaculture at ipa-“heal” ang Visayan Sea.” expressed Mr. David Villauz, Iloilo’s Representative for Aquaculture Sector after Sheryll Mesa of BFAR 6 National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) presented the status of the Visayan Sea.

Consolidated data of NSAP from regions 5, 6, and 7 shows that the Visayan Sea has been experiencing overexploitation; whereas indicators such as fishing mortality, spawning potential ratio, and exploitation rate are way beyond the established limit reference points. BFAR trawl survey results reflected a decrease of 70% of the Visayan Biomass from 6.03 MT/km2 in 1948 to only approximately 2 MT/km2 in 2016. Emphasis was given to enforcing Harvest Control Rules to allow the fishing ground to be restored to its then highly productive state.

“Resources are widespread but are not uniformly distributed within the FMA [11] thus [resources] need to be managed across LGUs”, stressed Dr. Wilfredo Campos of UPV during his presentation on the science behind FMAs. He added that there is a rich mix of species thriving in the Visayan Sea which could be attributed to the fishing ground’s shallow areas of high ecological production. He also highlighted that management of FMAs could be hierarchical such that sub-areas should also be looked at within sub-FMAs and as part of larger FMA which could be linked with adjacent FMAs.

Among the composition of the Interim Management Board include the BFAR and NSAP Regional Offices 5, 6, and 7 together with provincial local government unit, provincial fishery office, aquaculture sector, commercial fisheries sector, municipal fisheries sector, and post-harvest and marketing sector representatives of the provinces of Capiz, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Masbate, Negros Occidental, and Negros Oriental. Representatives from Department of Local and Interior Government (DILG), Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMR), Sagay Marine Reserve (SMR), USAID Fish Right Program, Oceana Philippines, Rare, World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), and NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR) were also present.

The Interim MB discussed next steps in engaging and convening key stakeholders to ultimately establish the Management Body for FMA 11 which covers Visayan Sea, Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) and Guimaras Strait.