Fishery fragility unfolds

By Herman M. Lagon 

Poor fishing threatens Iloilo’s economy and food security. Daily Guardian recently cited the Institute of Contemporary Economics (ICE) report that fisheries output dropped 42.1% from 2020 to 2023, the most significant drop in four decades. From 2021 to 2023, the industry value fell from nearly PhP 10 billion to 5.417 billion. This downturn may be attributable to a perfect storm of climate change, overfishing, environmental degradation, poor infrastructure, outdated technologies, and the pandemic.

The sharp drop in Iloilo’s fisheries production causes economic turmoil as local fishing jobs support tens of thousands of families. The contraction from 80,000 metric tons in 2020 to 36,000 in 2023 shows the severity of the situation. With this, fisheries output dropped to 1999 levels.

Not only do fishers’ livelihoods suffer, but so does Iloilo’s economy. Fisheries production declines, affecting processing, distribution, and tourism. Multiple economic sectors are affected, threatening regional stability.

Overfishing is a significant cause of the decline. According to the report, unsustainable fishing has decimated milkfish and blue crab populations. Depletion of these stocks reduces fish catches and raises consumer prices, worsening food security.

Environmental degradation worsens it. Ecological degradation has devastated coastal ecosystems, vital breeding grounds for many species. Fish populations have plummeted due to habitat loss, straining the industry.

Iloilo’s fisheries are also affected by climate change. Fish and other marine life reproduce differently due to changing sea temperatures and extreme weather. These intensifying impacts have made the region’s fishing community especially vulnerable.

Poor infrastructure and outdated technology have slowed sector productivity. Inefficient supply chains and storage facilities cause high post-harvest losses. To improve industry resilience and efficiency, equipment and infrastructure must be updated.

Industry decline is also due to the pandemic. Supply chain disruptions and movement restrictions hurt fishing. Closing markets and reduced demand cost fishers a lot of money, worsening the fisheries sector.

The decline in fisheries threatens food security. Many Filipinos, especially Ilonggos, depend on fish for protein, and its shortage and rising price can cause nutritional deficiencies and higher food costs. This is concerning because the region relies on fisheries for food.

Sustainable fishing is essential. This includes fishing quota enforcement, marine habitat protection, and community-based resource management. Sustainable practices replenish fish stocks and ensure long-term viability.

Investment in climate-resilient infrastructure and practices is also crucial. Improved coastal protection, climate-smart aquaculture, and extreme weather early warning systems are needed. Resilience will help the fishing industry weather climate change.

Meanwhile, modernizing fishing equipment and infrastructure boosts productivity and reduces post-harvest losses. We need cold storage, efficient supply chains, and modern fishing vessels. Government-private sector collaboration can drive these advances.

Comprehensive and collaborative action is needed to revive Iloilo’s fisheries. The Philippine Statistics Authority’s agriculture and fisheries census data must inform government policies for targeted and effective interventions. Community involvement is crucial because local knowledge and participation can lead to more successful context-specific solutions.

Iloilo’s fishing industry needs immediate and sustained action. Adopting sustainable practices, investing in modern infrastructure, and building climate resilience can revive this vital sector. The region’s economy and food security depend on fishing, not just the tens of thousands of families who depend on it.

Future efforts will require government, private sector, and community collaboration. We can overcome the obstacles and ensure Iloilo’s fishing industry thrives for generations to come.

***

Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here