THE BUREAU of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has launched a campaign to stop the selling of fish imports that are unauthorized for wet markets amid the closed fishing season.
In a statement on Thursday, the BFAR said the information campaign will run from Nov. 24 to Dec. 3 and will cover fish vendors across 21 wet markets in Metro Manila.
The campaign comes after the Department of Agriculture on Nov. 10 issued a certificate of necessity to import (CNI) 25,000 metric tons (MT) of frozen small pelagic fish to address supply gaps during the closed fishing season.
Small pelagic fish include round scad (galunggong), bigeye scad, mackerel, bonito, and moonfish for wet markets.
According to the BFAR, the importation of fish is only allowed until the end of the closed fishing season, which started in November this year and will end in January 2023.
“As the government allows fish importation anew in order to fill in the supply gap while our conservation measures are in place and keep the prices of our fish commodities in the retail markets stable, the BFAR conducts this (campaign) that will help safeguard the livelihood of our local fishers and prevent competition between our local and imported fish products,” BFAR Officer-in-Charge Demosthenes R. Escoto said.
“Only fish imported through Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 259 and the recent CNI, which gives priority to municipal fishing associations/cooperatives and commercial fishing operators affected by the closed fishing season, are allowed to be sold in the wet markets,” he added.
Under FAO 259, fish imports are allowed for wet markets via CNI only during the closed fishing season or the occurrence of calamities.
Meanwhile, the BFAR said that it is also implementing efforts to dissuade importation-related violations.
“One of the agency’s immediate steps concurrent with the importation for wet markets is the suspension, with few exceptions, of the issuance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearances for the importation of round scad, mackerel, bonito, moonfish, pompano and tuna by-products under FAO 195,” the BFAR said.
“This is expected to minimize, if not completely eliminate, opportunities that may be exploited by violators.”
The agency is also stepping up control measures on importation “such as strengthening border control through seaport/airport and cold storage warehouse inspections, including mandatory X-ray inspection of all reefer vans, and deployment of additional personnel for the first and second borders inspection.” — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave