ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Region 9 (BFAR-9) assured Friday there is sufficient supply of fish, especially "tamban", debunking reports of looming shortage of sardine products.

BFAR-9 Director Isidro Velayo Jr. said the annual catch of sardines is 300,000 metric tons (MT) based on Philippine Statistics Authority data.

“We have sufficient supply of fish,” Velayo said in a press conference Friday.

Earlier, the Canned Sardines Association of the Philippines warned of a possible shortage in sardine products should the supply of “tamban”—which they mainly used for production—remain low.

Edgar Lim, president of the Industrial Group of Zamboanga, Inc., said in the same press conference that they need 216,000 MT of tamban for the nine-month production of sardines.

The 12 local canning firms only operate from March to November due to the annual imposition of a three-month closed season for fishing sardines.

Although they do not operate year-round, the local canning firms supply 85 percent of the demand for canned sardines nationwide.

Lim said the 216,000 MT of tamban is enough to produce 1.2 billion cans of sardines.

However, Lim said “right now the fish supply is less” for sardine production since “there is not enough catch outside the 15 kilometers area” where commercial fishermen are allowed to fish.

“They (commercial fishermen) are not catching enough (tamban) now in the area they are fishing,” Lim said.

The 15 kilometers distance from shoreline is reserve for sustenance fishermen.

Meanwhile, the Fisheries Management Area 4 (FMA4) management board has recommended capacitating the municipal fisher folks through government interventions to enable them to be part of the value chain and have the capacity to supply the needs of the canning industry.

Capacitating the municipal fisher folks to be part of the value chain is to ensure the continuous supply of sardines without compromising sustainability, FMA said.

“The intention is for them (commercial and municipal fisher folks) complement not to compete each other so that there will be continuous supply of fish for sardine production,” Velayo said.

The FMA was created through Fisheries Administrative Order No. 263 for the Conservation and Management of Fisheries in Philippine Waters.

An FMA Management Board is a management body compose of key stakeholders from the industry, local government representatives, civil society organizations, the academe, and national government agencies. (PNA)