Comfort food for Filipinos need protection too

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    TO those who are not allowed to go out because of the enhanced community quarantine, sardines have become a staple in the pantry, whether canned, bottled, or smoked and dried.

    In the survey by the Social Weather Station together with Oceana in 2017, 70 percent of Filipinos eat fish or any seafood for five days in a month; 30 percent Filipino adults nationwide eat sardinas/silinyasi/tunsoy each month.

    Yet, maybe because of its size, it is one of the most undervalued fishes in the Philippines, in terms of protection and management mechanisms.

    International non-government organization, Oceana, honors sardines with the attention it deserves, dedicating one of its campaigns to sardines protection. The advocacy organization calls on the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to promulgate the long- overdue National Sardines Management Plan.

    “Fisheries Management Plans (FMP) are an excellent way to organize the existing biological, economic, and social information about sardines. It is also an ideal platform to make sure that all present and future governance and management mechanisms are coordinated, and part of a cohesive framework especially as we now have the Fisheries Management Area system. It also provides opportunities to set realistic goals for a fishery. Those who participate in a fishery can decide, for example, that their medium-term objective is to recover the population of the target species, maintain employment structure in a community, or achieve the maximum economic yield,” explained Atty Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President.

    Given the goals and objectives, an FMP for sardines allows for the creation of a framework for monitoring and evaluation of its progress for the sardine fisheries managers and users to have information for timely decisions to be made. Good FMPs are living documents, which contents are revised and adapted every so often, ideally three to five years.

    The National Sardines Management Plan went through several public hearings and consultations for the past three years. The National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council has recommended its approval.

    Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that 15 percent of total marine fisheries production came from sardines in the past 15 years. Municipal fisherfolks contributed 35 percent of this production and the other 65 percent was from commercial fishing sector.

    “The approval of the National Sardines Management Plan is not only imperative for the sectors dependent on this industry for their economic interests. With the COVID19 pandemic, we saw again how important this is for our food security and health. Without sustainable management in place for this very important fish, our children may not be able to experience and even know that there is this nutrient-packed favorite food of our generation,” said Ramos.

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