MORE CATCH. The new fishing vessel turned over by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to members of the Northern Samar Pacific Towns Fishermen’s Cooperative. The vessel made its first voyage harvesting 1.5 tons of high-value species. (Photo courtesy of Mapanas, Northern Samar local government)

TACLOBAN CITY – The vessel donated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to fishermen in Northern Samar made its first voyage harvesting 1.5 tons of high-value species.

The BFAR regional officer here reported on Tuesday that the first test-fishing mission of the FV/DA-BFAR 2102 steel hulled fish harvester within the Pacific Ocean on May 15 to 16 was successful.

Dan De San Miguel, BFAR tuna conservation management zone focal person, said in a phone interview that on board the vessel were local fishermen, local government officials, selected trained technical staff of the BFAR central office and Eastern Visayas regional office, and staff from the BFAR provincial fishery office.

“The expedition evaluated the performance and capabilities of the vessel and assess(ed) the skills of its municipal fisherfolk crew members in the actual operations of the said 50 gross ton fishing vessel within commercial waters. The fishermen’s cooperative will be trained further on how to further improve their fishing activities using the new ship,” said De San Miguel, who was with fishermen during the expedition.

He assured the sustainability of the vessel’s operation with a series of training on how to operate the vessel and continuing technical assistance from BFAR.

Upon the vessel’s arrival at the port of Mapanas in Northern Samar on March 16, the local government unit and BFAR followed the prescribed fish storage practices and sold the bulk of its catch to the residents of Northern Samar towns facing the Pacific Ocean.

Mapanas Mayor Ronn Michael Tejano who sailed with local fishers said in a phone interview the crew traveled back filled with joy and pride having caught 1.5 tons of fish consisting of yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, and galunggong (blue mackerel scad).

"With more fish expected to come in and more regular voyages, we are prospecting an increase of needed labor with the local fisherfolk to deal with the demand of work,” Tejano said.

BFAR turned over the PHP39 million fishing vessel to members of the Northern Samar Pacific Towns Fishermen’s Cooperative (NSPTFC) on March 29, 2023.

Recipients are members from the Pacific towns of Laoang, Palapag, Mapanas, Gamay, and Lapinig.

“This will not only provide more employment locally, but will definitely enhance our local economy and provide extra revenue to the local government, which can be used to develop our fishing industry. Our local consumers, particularly the poor, are now enjoying cheaper prices of the fish caught by NSPTFC,” Tejano added.

Northern Samar has nearly 1,000 tuna fishers largely dependent on traditional fishing methods to catch tuna in the Pacific Ocean, according to BFAR.

With the fishing vessel provided by the government, the bureau foresees at least a 5.4 percent or 180 to 200 metric tons increase in tuna production in Northern Samar province.

In 2022, the province contributed 13 percent of the region’s total fisheries production and recorded the second-highest yield of tuna production in the region. (PNA)