THE marked decline in Mambulao Bay’s fish stock has created shortage of fish in the public market, resulting in a price much higher than what consumers had paid before.
The heyday of bountiful catch from the bay is now just a pigment of local fantasy but its effect on the community in terms of higher prices continues to be echoed every day by the consumers, the fishermen, the fish traders and the market vendors.
With a lesser supply of fish catch reaching the stalls at the public market, matched by a long line of market goers waiting for it, its price would shoot up, which is what the law of supply and demand has been telling us consumers since time immemorial.
But aside from the effect of this law, there’s one little factor that also helps prop up the price – the increased volume of cash circulating in the municipality, courtesy of remittances from overseas workers, families and relatives based abroad.
With more OFW cash ready to be spent against a limited supply of consumer goods that included fish and other marine catch, the result is higher price.
And while the price would continue to hover above what most of the consumers could well afford, the amount of fish reaching many households’ dining tables would either remain steady or could dwindle some more.
But with the growing number of Mambulaoans looking for more and more sources of cheap protein – fish protein, that is – the amount of fish that could be shared by every household everyday would be very tight.
Something must be done now.
The campaign to check overfishing and illegal fishing within Mambulao’s fishing zone has failed.
There’s no doubt about this.
Over the years, the local authorities and the commercial fishing operators poaching on our municipal fishing zone – an area they are forbidden to touch -- have been playing the catch-and-mouse game, with the culprits winning it most of the time.
Just consider that the municipal exclusive fishing zone for coastal fishermen covers only 15km of marine waters from the shoreline as provided for under the Republic Act No. 8550 known as The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
The commercial fishers’ blatant intrusion into the forbidden waters with utmost impunity has deprived the marginal, subsistence coastal fishermen of their daily catch.
As a result, the volume of fish they manage to bring to the public market would not be enough to meet consumers’ demand.
And when this happens, our poor fishermen suffers more, as the day’s income from an overnight expedition out in the open seas would not be enough to meet the needs of their families, much less pay for the few liters of diesel fuel they would need for the following night’s fishing trip.
Over on Facebook accounts run by internet-hooked Mambulaoans, there have been discussions on the fish issue, which bordered on frustration, anger and the inane. All the input attempted to give a solution to the recurring fish supply shortage.
One input, although fully unexplored yet, pitched for the passing of a municipal ordinance that would require all commercial fishing operators – whether they illegally operated within Mambulao’s fishing waters or caught fish outside the forbidden zone, and therefore legally – to allot 10 per cent of their catch to the local public market at a price they pass it on to the fish traders (viajeros), that is, if they decide to unload their day’s catch at the municipal fishing port at Baranggay Osmena on the outskirts of the poblacion.
And those who refused would be asked to take their catch back to the boat and bring it elsewhere outside the municipal territory.
One reason why commercial fishers come to Osmena to offload catch is that it is a spot nearer than the bigger unloading fishing ports such as Mercedes, a boom fishing town in CamNorte, and those in Quezon province.
Short sailing distance would mean less fuel cost for the fishing boat operators and Baranggay Osmena in Mambulao is the best bet to save.
And for the viajeros, Osmena is likewise convenient for them to source the fish they trade in Navotas, Metro Manila. It is nearer than Mercedes and an advantage in terms of fuel cost.
Assuming that the total haul for the day is 100 banyeras, a 10 per cent allocation would easily mean 10 banyeras of fish going to our public market.
With each banyera of about 50kgs, the total allotment would be 500kgs a day, enough to please at least 1,000 households, assuming that each buys only half a kilo.
This scheme, if fashioned into a municipal ordinance, would provide local consumers of a steady supply of fish every day, especially when our small fishermen had managed only a few kilos of catch from the previous night’s work.
Such a consistency in the inflow of catch would also result in lower prices of fish in the long run.
Now, one Facebooker was concerned that it could violate some other laws.
What MWBuzz could say is that the complainant could simply sue the municipal government before a court of law and test the ordinance’s legality.
Meanwhile, the consumers in Mambulao will continue to enjoy more than enough supply of fish every day, without feeling the pinch of an overpriced kilo of the people’s favorite – galunggong.
- Alfredo P Hernandez