Small-scale Fisheries are Key to Livelihood and Food Security in the Philippines

Strategic management of small-scale fisheries, a self-sustaining and producing sector, could be the Philippine’s vehicle to development.

This is according to Mr. Len Garces of the WorldFish Center during his ADSS presentation entitled Role of Small-scale Fisheries in Food Security and Livelihood in the Philippines on 8 February 2011. He asserted that small-scale fisheries can be the  country’s entry point to eradicating poverty and hunger

About 80-95% of the fish catch of small-scale fisheries are marketed locally, hence its importance in feeding the people in the rural areas and nearby cities/provinces. With the increasing population, this sector is challenged to produce sustainable quantity of fish, to meet the country’s fish consumption levels by 2020. Furthermore, small-scale fishery is a major source of livelihood to the coastal communities, with an estimated 1.37 million operators not including the ancillary services such as fish processing and marketing/trading, and a big contributor to the country’s economy.

However, small-scale fisheries is often underestimated because it is hard to measure, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is a dynamic and evolving sector. Because of this, municipal fishers remain in the most impoverished sectors. Moreover, small-scale capture fisheries are environmentally diverse and fishing is carried-out using many different fishing methods and under an array of organizational/institutional set-up. 

According to Mr. Garces, failures and limitations in governance and management seem to be the core of the issues and problems faced by small-scale fishers. These problems include the depletion and increasing conflict for resources, post-harvest losses, environmental degradation leading to decreasing biodiversity, and external drivers like climate change.

The WorldFish Center proposed management strategies aimed to deal with the above-mentioned problems and improve the state of municipal fisheries in the country. These included sustaining and improving the current regulations and policies, preserving and protecting the fisheries ecosystems and biodiversity, establishing appropriate infrastructures and developing new approaches like the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF).

They also suggested the continued capacity-building of local government units and the adoption and implementation of scale-up fisheries management schemes.

Lastly, the Center emphasized the importance of communication to develop the sector. They proposed the implementation of a comprehensive education program, improvement of information systems, and the transformation of research results into usable formats.

Mr. Garces said that if managed properly, small-scale fisheries would improve the lives and decrease the rate of poverty among fishing households, and increase the contribution of fisheries to the local and national economy.

Mr. Garces is the Regional Portfolio Coordinator and Research Fellow of the WorldFish Center’s Philippine Country Office. He has been with WorldFish since 1990 and has 20 years of extensive fisheries and aquaculture research experience in Southeast Asia. (Regine Joy P. Evangelista)

The point of view taken by this article is entirely that of the presenter's and does not reflect in any way, SEARCA’s position.


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