The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources launched on Feb. 28 this 62-footer steel-hulled fishing vessel at Sual Bay to help local fisherfolk improve their production capacity. (Photo by Yolanda Sotelo)

SUAL, Pangasinan––The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) launched on Monday, Feb. 28, here the two fishing vessels made by a Filipino company to help improve the production capacity of local fisherfolk.

BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona, who rode one of the 62-footer steel-hulled fishing vessels for a trial sail at Sual Bay, said the ring-net fishing vessels cost over P23 million each, equipped with machinery and accessories.

Gongona said the ships were designed to provide identified municipal fisherfolk organizations in Ilocos and Eastern Visayas regions with upgraded and appropriate fishing equipment.

He said there was a need to “swarm” the West Philippine Sea with fishing vessels to haul more than 320 metric tons of fish available there annually.

“BFAR’s job is to produce more fish and not to import, and to increase fish production through aquaculture and through fishing vessels [that would be deployed to the sea],” Gongona said.

At least 92 percent of galunggong (round scad) comes from the waters off Palawan, which is part of the West Philippine Sea, Gongona said.

He said high-value fish and seafood like talakitok, lapu-lapu, and lobster also abound in the area.

“Also, one of the most precious fish in the world -tuna – can be found in Region I,” Gongona said.

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, “we cannot overemphasize the role of fisheries in our economy,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar in a recorded address.

“The Philippines is rich in marine and inland water resources that translate to income, employment, foreign exchange earnings, nutrition, and food security. We need to optimize these resources for the ultimate benefit of our fishers and their communities,” he said.

The fishing vessels will be turned over to municipal fisherfolk organizations to be trained to operate commercial fishing boats.

DA-BFAR experts will conduct cooperative development and management training for the beneficiaries.

“We have seen the inadequacies and inefficiencies of various fishing technologies, especially in coastal and municipal waters, and we are here to address that,” Dar said.

BFAR targets to award 35 more fishing vessels, including two ring-net, six bag-net, and 27 handline fishing boats in the coming months.

Two more ships are under construction by Filipino ship-building company Josefa Slipways, Inc., which fabricated two multi-mission vessels- BFAR Lapu-Lapu and BFAR Francisco Dagohoy.