21 FEBRUARY 2022

Recognizing the drastic decline on the volume of fish caught by its fisherfolk, the Municipality of Casiguran in Aurora enacted municipal ordinance no. 044 s. 2020, otherwise known as “An Ordinance Regulating the Municipal Fishing within the Territorial Waters of Casiguran, Aurora”, to address the shortage in supply and to sustain the livelihood of its fisherfolk.

Under the municipal order, only registered municipal fisherfolk may be granted a special permit by the Office of the Mayor to engage in municipal fishing provided that they submit a proof of fishing gear ownership, a favorable endorsement by the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC), and a fishing permit from the Municipal Agricultural Office.

Likewise, small and medium scale commercial fishing vessels (CFVs) may be granted an authorization or permit to operate within 10.1-to-15 kilometers from the shoreline of municipal water provided that a public hearing with the MFARMC is conducted, the CFVs will not operate within the depth of less than seven fathoms, and that fishing methods and gears are consistent with national policies.

Currently, the fisherfolk in Casiguran, Aurora and their partner CFVs are operating under a 30-70 proportion on catch while fisherfolk in Subic, Zambales, who are also utilizing the same partnership scheme, agreed to a 40-60 proportion with their partner CFVs.

Allowing small to medium scale CFVs to operate in municipal waters is in accordance with the amended Fisheries Code (RA 10654). Under the code, CFVs are only allowed to operate between 10.1 to 15 kilometers from the shoreline and in depths of seven fathoms. They are not allowed to operate in marine protected areas, national integrated protected areas systems, environmentally critical areas under presidential proclamations, and during closed fishing seasons.

Acknowledging the benefits of this fishing set-up, the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) is set to coordinate with local government units (LGUs) for the implementation of the operation of small to medium CFVs in municipal waters and the Big Brother-Small Brother (BBSB) partnership to further boost the sustainable fish production in the country.

The dialogues are intended to convene BFAR regional fisheries officers, local government officials, fisherfolk communities, commercial operators, and other regional stakeholders to lay the groundwork for a possible partnership between municipal fisherfolk and CFVs.

Aside from increasing the fish production, the BBSB partnership and the opening of municipal waters are also aimed at addressing the low production efficiency of municipal fishers, who use traditional and simple gears, through reasonable sharing of manpower, payao, and fishing materials and economic benefit on catch and revenues.

Small to medium CFVs will only be allowed to catch “catchable fish” or according to the capacity of fish stock based on National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) results and recommendation, including the number of fishing vessels and fishing days, to observe sustainable use of resources. Yet, they may be allowed to use active gears such as purse seine or pangulong, ring net or taksay, and other gears that do not endanger the sea bottom.

Meanwhile, LGUs must collect fees for landing, berthing anchorage, resource rent, and other required permits for both municipal fisherfolk and CFVs operators. Additionally, LGUs shall submit a priority list identifying waters to be included in the implementation of the two programs. It will also evaluate water territories based on whether they have registered delineated municipal waters, available NSAP results on status of stocks, and if those stocks are more resilient and will yield significant fish production. As of September 2021, there are 313 certified delineated municipal waters in the country. Sixty seven (67) of which are located in region V, 47 are in region VII, and 43 certified municipal waters are in region VI.