Poorly applied fishery laws blamed on dwindling goby catch in Ilocos Norte

LAOAG CITY — Ilocanos enjoy abundant supply of goby in creeks, rivers and streams. But over the years, its supply has been observed dwindling due to poor implementation of fishery laws and local ordinances.

Ilocos Norte’s bodies of water are being congested with traps, fish shelters, pens, cages and other structures that obstruct navigation and fish migration.

To address the dwindling supply of goby which used to be abundant in the freshwaters of Dumalneg town, Mayor Lervie Espiritu has proposed the creation of a fish covenant to safeguard the bodies of water and regulate catch of goby fry for them to grow and reproduce.

In 2004, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) approved an ordinance to regulate the catching of goby fry locally known as ipon and young goby (tartarak) within its territorial jurisdiction to ensure their unimpeded passage upstream and to other tributaries for them to grow and multiply.

Due to open catching of goby fry in the wild, it has been observed that fish supply in the interior towns of the province is becoming scarce.

To regulate the catching of goby fry, the Ilocos Norte government has declared at least four days closed season, a period wherein catching goby is prohibited at the mouth of the river.

Four years later, another related ordinance was crafted by the provincial board, this time, regulating the construction and establishment of structures in creeks, rivers and streams of Ilocos Norte.

The 2008 ordinance mandates local government units to designate specific zones for aquaculture and fishing areas including migration and navigational lanes in any body of water within their area of jurisdiction.

Amidst all these measures, no one has ever been apprehended or penalized for violating these local ordinances.

In a committee hearing held at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to tackle the issue, Mayor Fidel Cimatu of Bangui town said, “There are so many laws (fish regulations) but still we can’t stop them (violators). This is because of poor implementation on the part of LGUs (local government uits).”

He suggested that aside from the fish covenant, a special task force should be created to strictly implement the protection of the goby industry in particular.

Records obtained from the Provincial Fishery Section of the Ilocos Norte Agriculture Office show a decrease on the volume of goby production from 3.5 metric tons (MTs) in 2014 to 2.5 MTs in 2015. Fish data for 2016 is still being consolidated but observers noted fish supply in the province is apparently decreasing over the years.

By taking a unified action to reinforce the existing fish ordinances in the province including related national fishery laws, Mayor Larisa Foronda of Vintar is hoping that fishers in her hometown will be able to catch more “bukto” (young goby) and “pallileng” (adult goby) like they used to in the olden times.

Foronda reported that due to lack of supply, “bukto” in Vintar is pegged at PHP700 to PHP1,000 per kilo while pallileng is sold at PHP500 per kilo.

For his part, Provincial Board member Vicentito Lazo said the SP will try to revisit the ordinance by making some amendments and ensure its strict implementation.

Next week, the mayors of Pagudpud, Dumalneg, Bangui, Adams, Laoag, Piddig, San Nicolas, Sarrat, Dingras, Solsona, Carasi, Marcos, Banna and Nueva Era are set to participate in the covenant signing together with Governor Ma. Imelda Josefa Marcos. Leilani Adriano/PNA-northboundasia.com