MANILA - Advocacy group Oceana Philippines on Friday praised the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for declaring major fishing grounds in the country as fisheries management areas (FMA), a move seen to prevent overfishing.
"We laud BFAR for the issuance of this policy. In the past, government divided our waters into fishing grounds. The primary focus then is exploitation patterns," said environment lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines, the largest international organization focused on restoring the world's oceans.
"Now, by declaring FMAs, we are focusing on conservation and participatory management. That is, if this order is properly implemented," she said.
BFAR issued on Jan. 28 Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 263, which establishes 12 FMAs and seeks to provide a science-based and participatory governance framework for their management.
FMAs, Ramos said, are delineated based on approximate stock boundaries, range, distribution, and structure.
"Science tells us that fish breed, feed and grow during their life cycle without regard for municipal or national waters. The implementation of the FAO establishing the FMAs would help address overfishing in 2/3 of our fishing grounds and the multiple anthropogenic pressures our oceans face including illegal fishing, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change," she said.
Under FAO 263, each FMA must convene a management board where all stakeholders are represented. The management board is required to develop policies and programs for the FMA based on an ecosystems approach to fisheries management, as well as local government ordinances that would promote sustainable fishing.
"The FMA also acknowledges existing cooperative arrangement like integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (IFARMC) and Protected Areas Management Boards (PAMBs). Prior to FAO 263, there are many existing and actively operating management bodies like the Tañon Strait Protected Area Management Board from which FMA management boards can learn," Ramos said.
FAO 263 also requires BFAR to convene scientific advisory groups (SAG) with representatives from academic institutions, BFAR regional offices, municipal fisherfolk groups, the commercial fishing industry, and NGOs.