Fish Menus

by Juan L. Mercado

In Easter Week euphoria, few notice that simple fish meals feature significantly in the post-resurrection accounts.

The terrified disciples “didn’t dare believe,” Luke writes.  “Have you anything to eat?”  asked  the crucified  Galilean  Like a ghost, he appeared  in  their barred  dining room. “They gave him a piece of broiled fish.  He took and ate it before them.”

But Asian fishing communities today “are increasingly caught in a poverty trap,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.  Fisherfolk exploit, at ever increasing intensity, “a shrinking, fragile and unpredictable resource.”

Catching or farming fish form a vital part of peoples’ lives, notes the FAO regional office study: “Status and Potentials of Fisheries and Aquaculture.” Fish provides protein, especially for poor families unable to afford. Meat and other foods. Fish sauce (patis) appears on dinner tables from Malabon, Bangkok, and Hanoi to Jakarta.

Filipino fishermen account for three percent of gross domestic product. That’s thrice what Malaysian fishermen land. But it is only a third of Cambodian (11.4 percent) catches. Vietnam’s aquaculture yields are eight times more than ours.

Those up ticks don’t mean real increase in production, FAO cautions. They may reflect
improvement in how data are compiled. The role that fish plays “in food and nutritional security, specially of rural and coastal populations, is underestimated.”

“Asia and the Pacific are one of the heaviest fished areas in the world,” the report
states. “Signs of overfishing are becoming more apparent. Unexploited areas are shrinking.)”

The technical shorthand for the cause is “IUU” – illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. “IUU fishing in Asia is widespread and problematic,” the report adds.  Destructive methods employed range from dynamite to cyanide as well as unregulated gear.

Filipino and Taiwanese fishermen, in the 1960s, invented squirting cyanide into reefs to stun fish.

UN Environment Programme reports. Misuse of cyanide leapfrogged to Maldives, then on to the Seychelles.

Fisheries decline, however, is a worldwide issue, Economist reports. The journal “Nature” documented steep production slumps from the Gulf of Thailand to Labrador. Pew Oceans Commission estimates 30% of US stocks are overexploited. A  British royal commission documented collapse of key species, including the Atlantic cod.
“The global ocean has lost more than 90% of large predatory fishes”, asserts Dalhousie University in Canada.  It may “take at least 90 years for the stocks to recover” Would such losses include our popular lapu-lapu”?

“Forty  years of ( “IUU”),   aside from  targeting vulnerable spawning areas of lapu-lapu, mainly in Palawan, contributed  to  rapid disappearance of this  highly-valued  grouper, Henrylito  Tacio writes  in  Davao Sun Star.

Palawan waters host some of the most productive, yet  exploited, fisheries on earth,  World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF.) claims., .”Unless  we preserve remaining  wild stocks today, Palawan’s  fisheries will not be able to replenish. (They)  will collapse by 2020,” Dr. Geoffrey Muldoon predicts..

The Philippines straddles the Coral Triangle,  a  biodiversity-gifted  region between the Pacific and Indian Oceans a WWF  survey reveals  20 of 161 species of grouper, in the Triangle,  are  threatened with extinction.

Technology ratchets pressure on the oceans.  Refrigerated ships, trawlers, sonar, global positioning systems made tracking of marine life relentless. Ships shifted from temperate waters to the tropics. Many are after tuna,, anxious General Santos fishermen fret.. “This pattern continues today,”

If carefully tapped, inland fisheries could help   bridge this deepening  food gap. ”The clear challenges to meet the growing demand for fish can be translated into opportunity, if conditions are right.”

China, Bangladesh and India account for nine out of every ten tons of inland fisheries harvest. Aquaculture, after all, started near their  major river basins  centuries ago.

But this track record shouldn’t smudge a stark fact: .Asia’s ” high population density makes the per capita  availability of freshwater  lowest in the world,” FAO adds. “These have a major impact on fisheries.”   

Water  shortages stem from competing  demands of farms,  industries – and  people. There are probably over 90 million Filipinos today.— up from over 19 million in  1940 . Philippine cities, like Manila and Cebu, confront dry taps.

Marine catches are often unloaded landed in ports and are tracked. .Small fishermen’s catches, in contrast, are diffuse. Often, they’re consumed within the day. Their yields are not factored into income data. Thus, they become “invisible.”  Exceptions are
industrialized fishing lots in Lower Mekong, dai  fisheries in Cambodia and Burma’s fishing inns.

“There are serious discrepancies between current statistics and  reality,” FAO says. This is not a navel-gazing exercise. Millions of rural people “are excluded .As a result, governments give them scant attention.

Filipino officials, for example,, are obsessed with keel-hauling the constitution. That’d stretch their stay in office. This is gross insensitivity.

It overlooks the Easter account by John:: When Peter and  companions sloshed  ashore,, “they saw a charcoal fire with some fish on it”. And the Master said:. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.”

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