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Sardine fisheries in the Visayan Sea, Philippines are important sources of food and livelihoods and are critical components of food webs that contribute to the health and resilience of ocean ecosystems. Recent amendments to Republic Act 10654 of 2015 includes provisions for science-based management of Philippine fisheries that requires scientific assessments of sardine stock status, reference point for indicators of stock and fishery status, and harvest control rules that specify management actions triggered by indicator values relative to reference points. Sardine distribution and abundance is typically highly variable, making assessment and management difficult

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in coordination with Cornell University and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) conducted the Sardines Acoustic Survey last May 6 to 11, 2018 in Moalboal, Cebu and Concepcion, Estancia, and Carles, Iloilo. The research is aimed at testing the feasibility of using active acoustics (echosounders) and passive acoustics (hydrophones) to estimate sardine population density and develop an index of abundance to serve as part of the scientific basis for sardine management in the Philippines.

Moalboal, Cebu is known for its tourist attraction on “Sardine Ball” had a reef flat at an estimated distance of 10-20meters from the shore and a drop of 40meters. This is the area wherein dense population of sardines specifically Sardinella lemuru or Bali sardine locally known as “tamban “ or “tamban tuloy” is seen. The area is ideal for Sardines Management Area since the sardines population are well managed thru the implementation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

The Iloilo leg of the acoustic survey was conducted in Fish Aggregating Device (FADs) locally known as Payao/Arong areas of Concepcion Bay for the morning tracks and in light attracting device such as small scale Ring net using light and Stationary Liftnet or tangkal-tangkal operation in Estancia, Iloilo. Initial findings show the aggregation of fish in FADs in daylight and in light attracting devices during night operations. The aggregation of sardines fish school in 

Moalboal is much higher than in the fish aggregation in Iloilo wherein high fishing operation of both artisanal and small-scale commercial fishing is observed.

Detailed informations of the acoustic survey will be released this coming August 2018 showing all the results from Moalboal, Cebu and Concepcion and Estancia, Iloilo. The results from the sardines acoustic survey can show the sardines and fish school biomass of the areas which could serve as one of the science basis in managing the marine fishery resources of the Visayan Sea.

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