Sardines for exports possible — UP dean

A fishery expert advised fisherfolks to process oily types of sardines to reach more consumers, and the local government units to help build postharvest facilities to increase sardine exports to the United States.

Encarnacion Emilia Yap, dean of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of the Philippines Visayas, said last Thursday that fishermen must take advantage of Sardinella Lemuru, an oily sardine species that is Abundant in Northern Iloilo.

“Fisherfolks prefer other types of sardines, which are now decreasing in population, for dried fish products. Oily sardines need technology to dry them faster. But fisherfolks can be taught how to turn oily sardines into smoked sardines and hamonado sardines,” Yap explained during a webinar organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research.

Among the often-sought sardine species is the Sardinella fimbriata whose production has been declining to less than 100,000 metric tons since 2008, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Yap said fisherfolks must experiment with recipes and other processed products for Sardinella Lemuru and sell them to other places to expand their markets.

“Fish are culturally sensitive. People in certain places prefer dried fish, for example. The problem is a lot of market value is lost when there is an oversupply of sardine species in an area because some of the harvests might just spoil. They have to test products in other areas to find a new market.”

Euro market eyed

Yap said the higher production of processed Sardinella Lemuru in the Philippines would also open opportunities for local fisherfolks to sell the fish in Europe.

However, she said the government is waiting for the laboratory results from four countries abroad and the review of the European authorities on the oily sardine. Yap said this is needed to assure the foreigners that Sardinella Lemuru is present and abundant in Philippine waters and different from Sardinella Longiceps.

“They said that the resources of this sardine in the Philippines might be exploited, but we noticed that these opposing countries are the ones also producing Sardinella Lemuru. This might be their strategy to monopolize the European markets. We have to improve our supply value chain to be competitive.”

To prevent spoilage and stop the unhygienic practices of many fisherfolks, Yap said the local government units must help build post-harvest facilities, especially through their expanded financial capacity under the Mandanas Ruling.

This provides LGUs with a bigger budget as the Supreme Court agreed that the computation for internal revenue allotment for LGUs must include all national taxes. It also transfers power from the national government to LGUs to manage certain sectors, such as agriculture, health and education in their areas.

Gym as drying facility

“Many are still drying their sardines at basketball courts where dust and other dirt are absorbed by the fish. Some also put their sardines in containers that are too close to the ground. We have a standard height for drying sardines,” Yap said.

She added the proper post-harvest facilities will prepare fisherfolks to export more sardines to the United States which will start fully implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act in January 2026.

“This requires documentation or proof of traceability from raw materials to distribution channels. Fisherfolks and traders must show that their sardines have been properly handled from catching the fish to selling them at the markets. We must gear up the sardine industry,” Yap said.

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