March 16, 2019
An alliance of fisherfolk on Friday cried for government help following sudden drops in fish catch and farmgate prices due to the El Niño phenomenon.
In a statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) reported that the fish catch of small fishers in Manila Bay had declined to about 3 kilos from the usual 7 to 10 kilos per fishing trip.
“Small fishers are now enduring the diminishing fish catch due to El Niño. Oftentimes, there’s only an empty net to bring home,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson said.
“Fishing during El Niño is more difficult than usual because fish and other marine species migrate and move to deeper waters to find cooler temperature. Drought also triggers ecological disturbances such as massive fish kills and red tide phenomenon which effectively disrupt our fishing activity,” Hicap added.
In Laguna de Bay, farmgate price of aquatic fish species has dropped to an all time low due to the intense heat, Palamakaya said.
Farmgate price of tilapia was quoted at P20 per kilo compared to the pre-drought price of P50 per kilo or a 40-percent drop, while farmgate price of bangus or milkfish was P50 per kilo, a 71-percent drop from the pre-drought price of P70 per kilo, the group added.
“During dry spell, fish in Laguna de Bay acquires earthy-taste and smell because they go deep down the lake, making its farmgate price to drop because consumer demand for any kind of fish harvested during this season is very low. This reduces further whatever income small fishers can bring home to their families,” Ronnel Arambulo, coordinator of Pamalakaya in Laguna de Bay explained.
Pamalakaya urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to provide immediate relief in the form of economic assistance and subsidy to the fisherfolk whose livelihood are affected by the dry spell.
“Without delay, BFAR should address this devastating phenomenon by mobilizing its calamity fund to the drought-stricken fishing and rural communities for them to continue their production and sustain their families’ daily needs,” Hicap said.
In response, the DA-BFAR on Friday assured the public it was closely monitoring aquaculture areas and coastal communities in Western seaboard areas, which are particularly prone to the effects of El Niño. The agency, however, maintains that impacts to aquaculture vary per species and farming systems.
BFAR National Director Eduardo Gongona told The Manila Times the agency has readied mitigating measures for the fisheries sector.
“While farmgate prices has dropped which cut our fishermen’s earnings, we should also look at the brighter side that at least we still have production and food to eat. We will look at how to help our fishers sell their produce at a higher prices at the farmgate [level] while maintaining fair prices at the retail markets,” Gongona said in a phone interview.
Affected fisherfolk and their communities could also avail livelihood support and input assistance like seaweed seedlings, tilapia fingerlings, oyster rafts from the DA-BFAR, Gongona added.
Furthermore, the agency encouraged fisheries stakeholders to employ El Niño mitigating measures, especially in aquaculture, including the recommended stocking rate and feeding in fish farms to lower the risk of fish kill, reinforcement of dike peripheral for increased water holding, deeper fishpond to 1.0 to 1.5 meters by tidal intrusion, use of water re-circulating system,and use of species tolerant to changes in salinity.
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