Oceana to DA-BFAR: Protect Filipino staple food sardines by approving NSMP

The international non-government organization Oceana has reiterated its call to the Dept. of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to once and for all approve the National Sardines Management Plan (NSMP) as a step to ensure that sardines will be protected considering that it is a Filipino staple food. 

The NSMP has underwent extensive consultations and public hearings and consultations for the past three years and it has earned the recommending approval of the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council.

The approval of the NSMP has become an “imperative” stressed Oceana in light of the Coronavirus pandemic which placed a spotlight on the importance of food security, health, and the needed economic protection of the sardines industry.   

Sardines is a Filipino staple food

A canned sardines is usually a fixture in the grocery list of a every Filipino household whether canned, bottled, or smoked and dried. It is a staple food in every home under normal times or during a calamity or crisis.

This is the reason why a can of sardines has become a consistent food item in the relief food package distributed to Filipinos affected by calamities. 

In 2017, a survey undertaken by the Social Weather Station together with Oceana revealed that 70 percent of Filipinos eat fish or any seafood for five days in a month; three out ten (30%) Filipino adults nationwide ate sardinas/silinyasi/tunsoy each month.

An infograph poster prepared by Oceana exhibited that the Philippine archipelago is home to at least nine species of sardines, yet it is undervalued perhaps considering its small size, noted the group. 

Sardines is undervalued but it carry multiple benefits

Ironically, in spite being a Filipino staple food, sardines is treated with disregard and neglect. It cannot be denied, however, that the so-called “small fish” carries multiple value which benefits the country as a nation and its people.     

Sardines may be small in size, but it is big in nutritional value and an affordable source of protein among Filipinos. 

As an industry, on the other hand, sardines production is an economic driver for it creates jobs inside the production line like canning and bottling, among others, and extending outside factories where dried and smoked varieties are produced by small entrepreneurs who also employ workers. 

Ecologically, sardines plays an important role in the marine food chain being a major forage species of many predatory fish species, mammals, and cetaceans.

Protect sardines to sustain harvest

Despite the multiple benefits that can be derived from sardines, Oceana have noted that mechanisms for sardine protection and management remains weak, if not lacking.

“Given the significance of sardines to the Filipinos, it is imperative that these resources should be sufficiently managed to sustain its harvest,” explained Oceana.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) have showed that 15 percent (average of 333,743 metric tons) 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.

“Aside from being the preferred food for our urban households, our poor fisherfolks have been dependent on sardines for their food and livelihood. However, their [sardines] life is finite. It is one of the victims of overfishing caused by the lack of a science-based, cohesive, sustainable management of sardines fisheries,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President

“It is an important fish for the Philippines as we take pride in nine species found in different parts of the country,” Ramos added. 

Hence, Oceana dedicated one of its campaigns to sardines protection and it reiterated its call to promulgate the long-overdue National Sardines Management Plan on DA and BFAR.  

What is the Fisheries Management Plans?

For Oceana, a Fisheries Management Plan/Plans (FMPs) are an excellent way to organize the existing biological, economic, and social information about sardines. 

Among the goals and objectives of an FMP for sardines is the creation of a monitoring and evaluation framework so that sardine fishery managers can track progress and to make information from M&E results as a guide for a timely decision-making.

The FMP is important because of the following:

  • It offers an ideal platform that ensure a coordinated governance and management mechanisms and by serving as a forward and backward link of policies; 
  • It provides an opportunity for a more realistic goals setting for a fishery sector; and, 
  • It can make frameworks more cohesive especially on those that govern Fisheries Management Area systems.

The FMP, for instance, can help the sardine fishery sector draw up their medium-term objective which may define efforts, such as; recovery of the population of the target species, appropriate employment structure in a community, or on how to achieve maximum economic yield. 

A living document, the FMP is ideally revised and adapted every three to five years. Oceana also promotes participatory process in the crafting of the plan citing the effectiveness of the approach. 

Protect the sardines so that children may be able to enjoy it

“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 nutrients-packed favorite food of our generation,” said Ramos.

Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore the abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.

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