Aquaculture scientists discussed their take on local freshwater fishing sustainability in a webinar entitled “Commercially-caught Freshwater Fishes in the Philippines: Status, Issues, and Recommendations,” that was broadcast on 15 January 2021.

The event, organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-NAST), was moderated by Dr. Angel B. Encarnacion, Senior Fishing Regulation Officer of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

For his part, Academician Rafael D. Guerrero III of DOST-NAST’s Agricultural Sciences Division highlighted the economic importance of freshwater fishes, the production of which amounts to 164,845 metric tons or about half of the total fish catch in the Philippines in 2018.

Bicol, Northern Mindanao, and MIMAROPA posted two- to three-fold increases in output, that rose 12% overall nationwide from 2005–2018. On the other hand, for the same period, CALABARZON, Ilocos, and Eastern Visayas suffered major downturns ranging from 7–80%.

The Nile tilapia accounted for half of the PHP 3-billion catch value in 2017 as it boasted a 75.2% climb in production from 2016. On the other hand, thecritically endangered “tawilis” enjoyed a 50% upsurge, but the endemic “ayungin” posted an alarming 70% depletion rate in the same year.

Dr. Guerrero pointed to overfishing, pollution, invasive species, and environmental degradation as key threats to the sustainability of freshwater fishes across the country—mainly indigenous species and those in upland and land-locked areas.

Through the PhP 209.28-million "Balik Sigla saIlog at Lawa" program of BFAR, Dr. Guerrero is hoping to improve conservation, poverty alleviation, and food security in rural communities to complement ongoing revitalization and repopulation initiatives.

Another factor that needs to be considered to ensure a sustainable fishing industry is the mindset of both the fisherfolks and those that buy their produce. "The idea here is that we may change the behavior of our fisherfolk and consumers to attain sustainability," said Dr. Armi G. Torres of Quantitative Aquatics Inc.Torres further stressed the value of information, education, and communication materials like posters to address this issue.

For Dr. Ma. Theresa M. Mutia, Chief Aquaculturist at the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, continuous data collection and monitoring of catch are vital in establishing the status, trends, and policy recommendations for inland fisheries.

Moreover, Engr. Eduardo V. Manalili—Director ofthe Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development’s Inland Aquatic Resources Research Division of the Department of Science and Technology, highlighted the agency’s ongoing biodiversity conservation efforts.

These projects focus on populations of “ludong” in Isabela, “palos” in Cagayan and Bicol, “tawilis” in Taal Lake, and “biya” in Oriental Mindoro’s Naujan Lake. A new project on “ayungin,”according to Engr. Manalili, is already in the pipeline. 

The DOST-NAST serves as the premier recognition and advisory body on science and technology (S&T) in the Philippines. Through its programs and projects, DOST-NAST recognizes outstanding achievements to promote national productivity in S&T research. 

Acd. Rafael D. Guerrero III during his lecture on commercial freshwater fishes in the Philippines.

Webinar moderator Dr. Angel B. Encarnacion (upper-left) with reactors: Dr. Armi G. Torres (upper-right), Engr. Eduardo V. Manalili (lower-left), and Dr. Ma. Theresa M. Mutia (lower-right).

Key freshwater fishes (from; from left to right): Nile tilapia, “tawilis, and “ayungin.

(By Allyster A. Endozo, DOST-STII)

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