Fish supply enough for Holy Week – BFAR

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 16) — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has assured consumers of enough fish supply for the Holy Week despite some food supply chain challenges, including the oil spill off Oriental Mindoro.

BFAR spokesperson Nazario Briguera attributed this to the reopening of fishing grounds in the country after periodic closures that allowed the reproduction of fish species.

The closed fishing season is annually implemented for three months in three areas in the country. The fishing ban in Zamboanga Peninsula, the last to be lifted, runs from Dec. 1 until March 1 every year.

"Dahil nasa peak season tayo ngayon ng fishing activity, we expect na kaya nating punan 'yung supply kahit tumaas ang demand sa Mahal na Araw [We are in the peak season of fishing activity, so we expect to meet the high demand for fish during Holy Week]," Briguera said.

Demand for fish products increases during Holy Week, observed this year from April 2 to 8, as most Filipinos practice abstaining from eating meat. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation.

However, Briguera said there could be lower fish output in Oriental Mindoro and nearby provinces as the oil spill near Naujan town has yet to be contained.

According to the latest available government data on fisheries statistics, the total volume of fish production in Mimaropa in 2021 was estimated at 378,093.97 metric tons — which covered nearly 9% of the country's overall fish production that year. This translated to around ₱14.7 billion.

"Pero hindi namin nakikita na magkakaroon ng pangmalawakang kakulangan sa presyo ng isda because of the oil spill [We do not see a shortage of fish on a national scale because of the oil spill]," the BFAR spokesperson said.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, BFAR said the country produced about 4.34 million metric tons of fish in 2022, which was 2.16% higher than the local output in 2021, and 0.16% higher than the Department of Agriculture's target of 4.33 million metric tons.

The oil spill has already reached the shores of Palawan and Antique, and has affected thousands of fisherfolk. Marine experts have warned the slick could reach the Verde Island Passage — a marine corridor recognized as the center of global shore fish biodiversity.

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Briguera also said other supply chain issues include expensive fuel costs and post-harvest losses, but these were being addressed through fuel subsidies and other interventions to prevent spoilage.

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"Current fish spoilage is between 25 to 40% because of the shortage in post-harvest equipment like blast freezer, ice making machines, cold storage warehouses, and fish landing sites," BFAR said.