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BFAR urged: Rethink ban on eel exportation

/ 08:32 PM May 21, 2012

This is a reaction to the Fisheries Administrative Order 242, which reinstated the ban on the exportation of elvers. (“Gov’t stops eel export,” Inquirer, 5/8/12)

We have been an accredited exporter of live marine products to Hong Kong, Taiwan and China for two decades now. We would like to share with you the following insights in the hope that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) would rethink this policy.

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1. Through the years, the demand for Philippine elvers has been an on-and-off thing. Real demand only came in 2011 after the nuclear debacle in Fukushima contaminated Japan’s supply. (Japan is a predominantly eel-consuming country.)

2. Because of the big demand-supply gap, pond growers in China have to turn to the Philippine eel to fill their requirements for the Japanese market even though, traditionally, ours is the last preference. The species Anguilla japonica is the most preferred variety followed by Anguilla rostrata (American eel) and Anguilla anguilla (European eel).

3. This increase in the demand has, in turn, translated itself into a lucrative livelihood for catchers/fishermen and traders in the areas where eel supply is abundant. With the ban, the economic benefits may just go into the hands of the unscrupulous few.

4. Due to the seasonal nature of the demand, we cannot bank on it for a long time or even expect it to be sustained. It would be prudent, therefore, “to strike while the iron is hot.”

5. Elvers do not know how to swim such that when they are washed ashore and are not caught, there is a great possibility that the waves will just carry them to other shores. Which means that any expectation of a bountiful population within our territory may not be realistic after all.

6. Elvers thrive best in cool environments. Since it is hot in our country, they may not survive or they may seek cooler refuge somewhere else.

7. Instead of the total ban, BFAR could impose a “selective ban” as there are certain areas in the country where eel supply was discovered only last year following the hike in eel demand.

8. BFAR could likewise conduct a study on the possibility of declaring an “open and close” season like the European model.

9. A “quota system” could also be considered or the issuance of export permits for a fee imposed on duly accredited exporters. This way, BFAR could generate funds for its research and development, as well as for its conservation and preservation initiatives.

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10. Finally, if more open-minded heads are to prevail, BFAR could temporarily suspend the implementation of the subject administrative order for this year, pending a more thorough evaluation of its implications to the various affected sectors.

—MARCELA A. ENRIQUEZ,

co-proprietor,

Ocean Treasures Marine Trading,

3261 Riverview Compound, Quirino Ave.,

Tambo, Parañaque City

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TAGS: Anguilla, bfar, Fisheries Administrative Order, Philippine
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