PH, Indonesia, Malaysia seal fisheries pact covering Sulu-Celebes Sea
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia on Wednesday signed a fisheries management agreement in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, in a bid to promote sustainable production in the Sulu-Celebes Sea.
Signed by the countries’ respective agriculture and fisheries agencies, the Regional Strategic Action Program aims to protect the Sulu-Celebes Sea which is within the jurisdiction of the three nations and among the 200 most critical eco-regions in the world.
Signatories to the commitment were Dr. Sudirman Sa’ad, Director General of Marine, Coast and Small Islands, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) from Indonesia; Datuk Ujang Sulanim, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry Sabah from Malaysia; and Atty. Asis G. Perez, Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) from the Philippines.
“Much support is still needed to implement the regional program ranging from funding support to informed local participation and action,” said Datuk Rayner Stuel Galid, current Chair of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Sub-Committee on Sustainable Fisheries.
He applauded the program which takes on “the challenging task to undertake marine biodiversity conservation in the Sulu-Celebes Sea.”
The signing of the program was the culmination of a two-year process that involved consultations with stakeholders, experts and agencies. It is based on common problems besetting the area and their potential impact on the 40 million people residing in the region.
The Sulu-Celebes Sea is in the region that harbors the highest marine biodiversity among the world’s oceans. It has an annual potential fish yield of 675,380 metric tons which provides food for the region.
However, recent studies showed that overfishing has resulted in the decline of fish size and catch.
“The decline in fishery resources, in addition to the fast growth of the population, greatly affects the economic situation of these fishing communities,” a joint statement on the program said.
The program will focus on the conservation of small fishes such as sardines, long-jawed mackerel, big-eye and round scads, and frigate mackerel which are most abundant in the area.
“By focusing our conservation plan on small pelagic fisheries, we ensure that the welfare of economically marginalized communities is being taken care of. Small pelagic fishes like sardines, scads and mackerel do not only provide source of income to fishers but they are also the more affordable protein source for lower income population in the region,” United Nations Office for Special Services regional project manager Romeo Trono said.
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