Middlemen, overfishing make life difficult for fisherfolk | Inquirer Opinion

Middlemen, overfishing make life difficult for fisherfolk

/ 04:10 AM June 06, 2022

The article by Joel Ruiz Butuyan, “Uplifting the lives of farmers/fisherfolk” (Flea Market of Ideas, 5/26/22) mentioned that there are two roadblocks preventing our farmers/fisherfolk from becoming prosperous. My comment is focused on the fisherfolk sector.

The first is that the prices paid to them by the middleman are cheap compared to the prices paid by the end consumers. The second is that the fisherfolk are prevented from shifting to gainful marine endeavors because they do not have access to buyers.


While the article pertains to the market aspect, I would like to elaborate on the production aspect to get the wider picture of the fisherfolk predicament. Presented hereunder are two important related factors.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reports on the annual fisheries situation show that the marine municipal fisheries subsector experienced increasing catch, which peaked in 2010 at 1.18 million metric tons. Subsequently, the catch kept on decreasing until it reached 0.93 million metric tons in 2021, thus incurring an annual negative two percent growth. Among fisheries scientists, this situation is attributed primarily to overfishing as a result of the increasing number of fisherfolk from 1.37 million in 2002 to 1.6 million in 2012.


In accordance with the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, the government as well as nongovernmental organizations have implemented the coastal fisheries resource management program. The key agency is the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources under the Department of Agriculture. It has the objectives, among others, of reversing the trend of declining catch and attaining sustainable fisheries. The approach is setting the limit on catch by reducing the number of fisherfolk to the desired level. This measure entails government support by way of providing assistance to those who would like to engage in alternative livelihood and income diversification.

The program implementation resulted in the deceleration of the annual negative growth in catch, but there is no clear sign of when it will bounce back as shown in the graph on PSA annual catch data from 2010 to 2021. Given the limit on catches, the increased production will have to come from aquaculture (inland and marine), which registered 1.5 percent in annual growth (excluding seaweed) and 14 percent in mariculture (PSA data).

At this point, it is worth mentioning the advice of Cielito Habito, former head of the National Economic and Development Authority under the Ramos administration, to “Copy our neighbors” (No Free Lunch, 04/19/22) which “devote much more funds to agriculture. The sector takes 1.7 percent of our total [national] budget, while it’s 3.4 percent in Indonesia, 3.6 percent in Thailand, and 6.5 percent in Vietnam. That alone already speaks for itself.”

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TAGS: Edmundo Enderez, fishing problems, Letters to the Editor, middlemen, overfishing
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