The closing season for reef-fish-for-food (RFF), which was set to take effect yearly from November 1 to March 31, will be moved to March 1 to May 31 every year, but with corresponding stricter conditions for LGUs, traders, and catchers.

It can be recalled that PCSD declared last October that it will lift the suspension of the implementation of the closing season for Suno to ensure its sustainable yield, enable reefs to recover and regulate the unrestricted catching.

However, after a consultation meeting of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) with the stakeholders of Suno last Oct. 21 at VJR Hall Palawan Provincial Capitol, the parties agreed on some changes after deliberating the conflict between the socio-economic aspect and the ecological effects if the closing season will proceed every November.

While Suno has the “highest” reproduction rate from November to February, it also has high demand and high prices in the market from October to March.

Due to this, the parties agreed to move the closing season to March 1 to May 31, considering that Suno also reproduces in April and May but at a slower rate compared to the months covered in the previous closing season schedule.

The PCSD has formally adopted these changes last Nov. 26 through PCSD Resolution No. 10-688.

To compensate for the said changes, and as a condition by the PCSD, the LGUs and Suno catchers and traders signed a manifesto last Nov. 8 that binds them to perform certain duties and obligations in ensuring the conservation and sustainability of Suno.

Meanwhile, the PCSD maintains that no wild-caught Suno below 32 centimeters (cm) must be caged or caught at all times. 

LGUs obligations and responsibilities

In order to support the regulation and monitoring of RFF industry in the province of Palawan, the members of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines – Palawan Chapter, committed to:

  1. Establish 30 percent of their respective municipal waters as Marine Protected Area (MPA), where 10 percent shall be designated as a sanctuary, and formulate MPA management plan, MPA management board, and other related activities;
  2. Impose fees for RFF sourced within their respective municipal territory, the proceeds from which shall be utilized for municipal-based enforcement activities related to the protection of RFF species and their habitat through local coastal/marine enforcement (Bantay Dagat) in close coordination or jointly with ECAN Board Enforcement Committees; Police members of RFF industry against violations of laws, rules and regulation, or acts that are damaging to the coastal/marine environment;
  3. Enact an ordinance creating the local coastal/marine enforcement (Bantay Dagat) with a specific provision therein that the latter shall form part of the ECAN Board Enforcement Committee and of the Palawan Environmental Enforcement Network (PalawEEN) being organized by the PCSD as part the whole of government approach in order to increase integration, capacity and coordination among stakeholders against environmental crimes; Refrain from buying RFF species caught through the use of cyanide or other illegal means;
  4. Support the PCSD in the implementation of total prohibition of “trade” involving wild-caught “suno” during the close season, including those from cages (except for hatchery-bred species from facilities with corresponding Wildlife Farm Permit);
  5. Enact an ordinance banning the use of compressors for fishing activities, including the catching of RFF species, where the penalties shall include the forfeiture of bancas or motorboats where such compressors are found;
  6. Enact an ordinance regulating the construction of cages in their respective municipal waters through the issuance of Water Lease Agreement or other equivalent permit, which will be made as part of the requirements prior to issuance by the PCSD of Wildlife Special Use Permit for those engaged in caging of RFF species;
  7. Support the PCSD in the organization of RFF industry traders and collectors into geographical sectors for purposes of rehabilitation and protection of the coastal environment; and
  8. Support the PCSD in implementing not only the seasonal control under Administrative Order No. 05 but also other regulatory mechanisms established therein, such as the restriction catching below 32 cm.

RFF traders and catchers’ obligations and responsibilities

The members of associations of traders and catchers for RFF industry also undertake to:

  1. Support the establishment of 30% of municipal waters as MPA and actively participate in the formulation of MPA management plan, MPA management board, and other related activities;
  2. Support the imposition of LGU-based fee system for RFF industry by the municipal governments, to generate income for the protection of RFF species and their habitat;
  3. Police members in RFF industry against violations of laws, rules and regulations or commissions of acts that are detrimental to the coastal/marine environment and for other rehabilitation initiatives.
  4. Refrain from “trading wild-caught suno” during the close season, including those from cages (except for hatchery-bred species from facilities with corresponding Wildlife Farm Permit);
  5. Refrain from buying RFF species caught through the use of cyanide or other illegal means;
  6. Refrain from the construction and maintenance of cages in municipal waters without Water Lease Agreement from the appropriate municipal government;
  7. Refrain from the use of compressor for fishing activities, including the catching of RFF species; and,
  8. Support the PCSD in implementing, not only the seasonal control under Administrative Order No. 05 but also other regulatory mechanisms established therein, such as the restriction of catching below 32 cm.