Keeping Fish on Our Plate

ais3n.jpg
Fish on platter and rice bowl by ais3n (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Overfishing has put too much stress to the Earth’s remaining fish supply. The question is: how do we manage a natural resource that has a global demand? We look at dealing with fish catch through the lens of “ecosystems” and bring some local solutions to light.

Almost everyone loves to eat fish. A 2009 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study estimated that the world’s population eat up to 110 million tons of fish each year. In Asia, one billion people rely on fish as their main protein source. For others, fish are not just healthy food on the table, but also the means to put food on the table. Fishery is a huge industry with estimated sales value of USD 90 billion, with motorized fishing fleets estimated to be 2.1 million.

The first morning light warms the first catch of fish at the Margosatubig landing in Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines. There are times when there is an oversupply of sardines during the peak season that unsold fish are sometimes thrown away because transport to the market would be too costly. Like other municipalities in the bay, Margosatubig would benefit from skills training on fish processing.
The first morning light warms the first catch of fish at the Margosatubig landing in Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines. There are times when there is an oversupply of sardines during the peak season that unsold fish are sometimes thrown away because transport to the market would be too costly. Like other municipalities in the bay, Margosatubig would benefit from skills training on fish processing.

State of the world’s fisheries

A fisher holds a large grouper at a fish landing site near Semporna market in Sabah, Malaysia.
A fisher holds a large grouper at a fish landing site near Semporna market in Sabah, Malaysia.

We have yet to explore the deepest parts of the sea, but in terms of fisheries, FAO has concluded that we might have already gone beyond the ocean’s maximum fishing potential.

Along with the booming human population and appetite, fish are being overexploited in unprecedented ways. In fact, around 80 per cent of the global fish population are fully exploited, overexploited, or recovering from overexploitation.

It means that these areas produce less fish than they normally do. Thus, we have only a little over 20 per cent of moderately exploited areas remaining.

In addition, FAO reports that illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing around the world accounts for losses between USD 10 to 23 billion every year.

 

Anchovies are sundried on a port overlooking Dumanquillas Bay. The Dumanquillas Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape (DBPLS) is considered as the fish bowl of Southern Philippines. It covers six municipalities and 42 barangays in Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay. It is a nursing ground for sardines, tuna, and other commercially valuable fish and bay faces severe pressures because of overfishing and destructive fishing methods. CTI-SEA supports the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in protecting critical habitats and fish resources, particularly sardines.
Anchovies are sundried on a port overlooking Dumanquillas Bay. The Dumanquillas Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape (DBPLS) is considered as the fish bowl of Southern Philippines. It covers six municipalities and 42 barangays in Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay. It is a nursing ground for sardines, tuna, and other commercially valuable fish. Today, the bay faces severe pressures because of overfishing and destructive fishing methods. CTI-SEA supports the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in protecting critical habitats and fish resources, particularly sardines.
Fresh tuna are sold in a fish market in Pagadian City. In the Zamboanga Peninsula, around 50% of the total incomes of families in the coastal areas come from the bounty of the sea. A 2014 rapid resource and socioeconomic assessment* of DBPLS revealed challenges faced by the fishing industry. This includes having a poor number of target species like groupers, snappers, and other commercially valuable fishes. These can be linked to harmful practices like overfishing, the growing number of fishers and fishing vessels, and environmental destruction. If this situation continues, it will largely affect the future fish supply, income, and quality of life in the area. The DBPLS General Management Plan aims to address these concerns by providing guidelines for a more sustainable management of the bay’s resources. The PAMB finally approved the plan in 2015.
Fresh tuna are sold in a fish market in Pagadian City. In the Zamboanga Peninsula, around 50% of the total incomes of families in the coastal areas come from the bounty of the sea. A 2014 rapid resource and socioeconomic assessment of DBPLS revealed challenges faced by the fishing industry. This includes having a poor number of target species like groupers, snappers, and other commercially valuable fishes. These can be linked to harmful practices like overfishing, the growing number of fishers and fishing vessels, and environmental destruction. If this situation continues, it will largely affect the future fish supply, income, and quality of life in the area. The DBPLS General Management Plan aims to address these concerns by providing guidelines for a more sustainable management of the bay’s resources. The PAMB finally approved the plan in 2015.

Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management

The worst case scenario is having no more fish to eat in the future. This is why one of the biggest challenges of this generation is rethinking the way we fish and eat fish. Experts recommend changing our approach when it comes to managing fish supply. That is, looking at the big picture and putting together different puzzle pieces.

Before we can begin to successfully manage our resources well, we first need to know the real status. Researchers profiled a mangrove forest in Margosatubig as part of a bay-wide rapid resource assessment of Dumanquillas Bay. In this study, the health of mangroves, and other critical habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass beds were examined. Also, a participatory coastal resource appraisal (PCRA) was done to generate a socio-economic snapshot of coastal communities that are dependent on the bay for their livelihood and sustenance. The results of the field assessment, community consultations, and planning workshops were used to update and reinforce the bay’s General Management Plan.
Before we can begin to successfully manage our resources well, we first need to know the real status. Researchers profiled a mangrove forest in Margosatubig as part of a bay-wide rapid resource assessment of Dumanquillas Bay. In this study, the health of mangroves, and other critical habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass beds were examined. Also, a participatory coastal resource appraisal (PCRA) was done to generate a socio-economic snapshot of coastal communities that are dependent on the bay for their livelihood and sustenance. The results of the field assessment, community consultations, and planning workshops were used to update and reinforce the bay’s General Management Plan.

Technically, this strategy is called the ecosystem approach to fisheries management or EAFM. It means that when we want to manage a certain species of fish, we take care of its physical environment and the other animals that interact with it. Also, we consider the interaction among the ecological, social, economic, and political aspects of fishing. Finally, we find local solutions to counter old practices that negatively affect fish supply.

“As we work towards one goal, that is, managing our fish supply for the present and future generations, we don’t forget to integrate environmental concerns in economic activities, such as fishing,” says Dr. Annadel Cabanban, EAFM Specialist.

Enumerators identify the different stages of gonadal maturity as part of the stock assessment study of sardines in Dumanquillas Bay
Enumerators identify the different stages of gonadal maturity as part of the stock assessment study of sardines in Dumanquillas Bay

So how does this look on the ground? In Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, we

  • study the natural environment and fish life cycle;
  • upscale the management skills of different players in the fishery world such as fishers, businessmen, consumers, resource managers, and local government leaders; and
  • educate the public on how to live with concern for the environment.
A trainee identifies possible local partnerships to manage fish supply. CTI-SEA has conducted trainings on EAFM in Tawau and Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia with the Department of Fisheries Sabah, Department of Fisheries Malaysia, and the Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin. The Essential EAFM Manual (www.boblme.org) was translated to Bahasa Malaysia and additional exercise was tailored for resource-users to know how to contribute to monitoring.
A trainee identifies possible local partnerships to manage fish supply. CTI-SEA has conducted trainings on EAFM in Tawau and Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia with the Department of Fisheries Sabah, Department of Fisheries Malaysia, and the Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin. The Essential EAFM Manual (www.boblme.org) was translated to Bahasa Malaysia and additional exercise was tailored for resource-users to know how to contribute to monitoring.
Left: Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs is creating a marine spatial database for the Sulawesi Sea with CTI-SEA. This will give useful information for planners and policy-makers as they consider activities on fisheries, conservation, tourism, transportation, communication, energy, and minerals and mining. Right: New EAFM practitioners identify their vision for capture fisheries in Zamboanga, Philippines. More than 600 people have been trained on EAFM across Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Left: Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs is creating a marine spatial database for the Sulawesi Sea with CTI-SEA. This will give useful information for planners and policy-makers as they consider activities on fisheries, conservation, tourism, transportation, communication, energy, and minerals and mining. Right: New EAFM practitioners identify their vision for capture fisheries in Zamboanga, Philippines. More than 600 people have been trained on EAFM across Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Working Together

CTI-SEA has teamed up with fisheries managers, fishers, and local leaders in Kwandang Bay, Sulawesi, Semporna, Sabah, and Dumanquillas Bay, Philippines to show that working together in managing fish supply can be made possible. We nurture a culture of learning-by-doing, and through it, we hope that pilot activities will be self-sustained, and that experiences will be passed on.

From sea to land, we work on educating and engaging the public in taking care of our natural resources. Dumanquillas Bay residents joined the global celebration of Coral Triangle Day every June 9, picking up trash on 140 km of beach. The trash data collected was reported to the International Coastal Cleanup. Around 4000 volunteers joined the event.

Choosing better seafood

EAFM may seem to be a bit of a challenge to apply in daily life. Depending on our role in society, we can:

  • stop marine pollution that will destroy the coastal waters by being responsible with our trash,
  • help protect mangrove forests where young of fish and shell fish grow,
  • buy fish that are caught with legal gears (this will allow young fish to grow and adult fish to replenish harvested stocks),
  • buy local fish or from sustainable farms, and/or
  • contribute to the implementation of an EAFM Plan in a locality.

Doing our bit will keep fish on our plate. Now and tomorrow.

Written by Dana Rose Salonoy with inputs from Dr. Annadel Cabanban, CTI-SEA EAFM Specialist and Mr. Raul Roldan, CTI-SEA Philippine Deputy Team Leader. Images courtesy of Angelo Jose Lumba, Raul Roldan, Eric Avelino, and James Berdach.

References:

United Nations. 2010. Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/reviewconf/FishStocks_EN_A.pdf

University of Michigan. 2006. World Fisheries: Declines, Potential and Human Reliance. Retrieved from http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/fisheries/fisheries.html

Green Facts. n.d. Fisheries Latest data. Retrieved from http://www.greenfacts.org/en/fisheries/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s