The Tuna Industry: Embracing technologies and sustainable strategies

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Photo: SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc.

Republished from Panay News, 23 August 2019

by Belinda Sales-Canlas

THE 21st National Tuna Congress is happening on September 4-6, 2019 in General Santos City. The Theme for this year’s Congress: “The Tuna Industry: Embracing Technologies and Sustainable Strategies”. Why this Theme?

The choice of the Theme is anchored on sustainability supported by technologies. We all know that Sustainability of Tuna Resources is paramount to the fishing industry. It cannot be overemphasized that the sustainability of the ocean’s resources does not only rest on the shoulders of government. The same responsibility is likewise demanded of the private sector, especially the global players of the Tuna Industry, and the global fisheries advocates.

The Theme calls that sustainability can only be achieved if Conservation and Management Measures are dutifully observed, and international and regional agreements calling for preservation of species and recovery plans, are honoured.

Sustainability also means no overfishing.  It means that we enable an environment for Tuna and Tuna-like species to spawn and propagate for another season of catch. The intention is not to deplete our resources.

On technology, the world is currently driven by technology. The fishing industry needs to keep up by continuously upgrading systems and processes to achieve full efficiency while being ocean-friendly.

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For 2019, the SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII) welcomes its new President, Andrew Philip Yu. Outgoing President Joaquin T. Lu has served SFFAII for 8 years, starting in 2011. He also held the chairmanship of the National Tuna Congress for eight years. 

President Lu’s accomplishments include: Active and dynamic Advocacy, Lobby Work, and Involvement in International and Regional Collaborations; Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws; and Implementation of the electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability System (eCDTS).

On the first, the country is a driven Member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Under his watch, the Philippines has been granted access to fish in the High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP1). This means that the country’s 36 fishing fleets can fish in the HSP1 of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This is a major breakthrough for the country. It may be recalled that for a time, the Philippines was no longer allowed to fish in Indonesia. The prohibition affected the Tuna Industry. The severity of the situation was felt in General Santos City, the home base of the Tuna Industry.

Under his leadership, the fishing industry was able to surmount the acute challenge. Of course, even as the Philippines is granted access to fish in the high seas, the country is duty bound to comply with international regulations, like the observance of conservation and management measures.

SFFAII also pushed for the Philippines’ inclusion in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. The high seas of the Indian Ocean and the Exclusive Economic Zones of member-coastal states are potential fishing grounds for Philippine purse-seine fishing vessels. Fishing in other fishing grounds will enable our own fishing grounds to recover.

SFFAII also pushes the promotion of ASEAN Tuna globally and branding it as a suitable and traceable-produced product. SFFAII supports the move to properly label the fishing industry and its allied industries’ products. However, it likewise urges that international certification be made affordable, yielding benefits not only to stakeholders, but also on marine ecosystems.

On Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws. For 20 years, SFFAII has hosted 20 Tuna Congresses. The Tuna Congress is now on its 21st year. The yearly Congress has become a venue for intense lobby efforts from among the active players and loyal stakeholders of the industry. The issues and concerns afflicting the industry are highlighted in the yearly Tuna Congress.

The yields of the past Tuna Congresses include the Formulation of a Policy governing Illegal, Unlawful, and Unregulated fishing practices; Finalization, Production, and Issuance of the Philippine Fishing Vessels Safety Rules and Regulations; 2018 National Tuna Management Plan which is aimed at establishing a sustainably-managed and equitably-allocated Tuna fisheries by 2026 and promoting responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products; Creation of National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council that serves as an advisory/recommendatory body to the Department of Agriculture in policy formulation; Reconstitution of the National Tuna Industry Council; Approval of the Handline Fishing Law and the amendment of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the said law; among others.

On Implementation of the eCDTS. In 2017, a major milestone for the Tuna Industry unfolded when SFFAII partnered with USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership and BFAR to develop and implement the eCDTS. The system, when operational, will trace the movement of seafood from “bait to plate”, all the way through to export markets like US, EU, and neighbouring ASEAN markets. General Santos City has been chosen as the pilot city. Now on its final year, we will see how this system will actually impact the fishing industry.

‘No place to hide’ for illegal fishing fleets as surveillance satellites prepare for lift-off

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Republished from Mongabay News, 30 August 2019

by Gavin Haines

  • A low-cost satellite revolution is paving the way for real-time monitoring of fishing vessels using synthetic-aperture radar (SAR).
  • SAR allows researchers to monitor ‘dark vessels’ that aren’t transmitting Automatic Identification Signals (AIS) location data.
  • Disabling or manipulating AIS transmitters is a tactic commonly used by vessels engaged in illegal fishing activity.

The prospect of monitoring every vessel at sea in real-time has moved a step closer to reality as a new generation of surveillance satellites takes to the skies.

The satellites are being launched by a small number of private companies with the potential to transform the monitoring of marine fisheries. One of those companies is Capella Space, which will launch a constellation of 36 surveillance satellites into orbit starting in December, following successful trials with a pilot satellite.


A 2018 map of areas likely damaged from ash and lava flow from Fuego volcano in Guatemala derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). Each pixel is 30 meters (99 feet) across. Radar images penetrate smoke, clouds and darkness to provide information on the structure of what is below. They can thus assess ground surface damage from volcanic activity (here, red color indicates more damage), as well as the presence of a large fishing vessel on the sea. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Copernicus/Google.

Capella’s “minibar-sized satellites” are equipped with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) sensors, which ping signals down to Earth and use the information bouncing back to generate radar images. Though radar pictures lack the detail of optical images and cannot currently be used to identify specific vessels, they can detect the presence of any ship in the ocean, day or night, whatever the weather.

SAR’s greatest asset is that it can detect the presence of vessels that aren’t transmitting Automatic Identification Signals (AIS), so-called “dark ships”. Vessels weighing 300 gross tons or more are required to carry AIS transmitters, which broadcast a vessel’s name, country of origin, speed, and location. Crews engaging in illegal fishing activity often disable them or manipulate the data to give false coordinates.

“It’s hard to quantify how widespread this practice is, but I think it’s pretty widespread,” said Peter Horn, who leads the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Ending Illegal Fishing Project.

Paul Woods, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Global Fishing Watch, agrees. “There are a lot of vessels running around, particularly fishing vessels doing bad things, that don’t want to be tracked,” he said.


Stacks of fish found in the hold of the Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel Yu Feng from alleged illegal fishing activity off the coast of Sierra Leone.  Members of various security agencies of Sierra Leone and U.S. Coast Guard sailors found the illegal catch after conducting a joint boarding operation. Sierra Leone is patrolling the waters further from their shore to protect their economic zone. Image courtesy of United States Coast Guard.

SAR is part of a suite of surveillance tools used by law enforcement agencies and environmental watchdogs, such as Skytruth, to check for the presence of “dark ships”. The technology is also widely used to identify oil spills and to observe changes in sea ice at the poles and forest cover in the Amazon.

Now, a new breed of satellites, which are 20 times lighter than their outdated predecessors and therefore easier and cheaper to launch, promises to greatly expand the capabilities of SAR surveillance.

Current drawbacks of SAR

SAR data are currently gathered by a handful of satellites, which are operated mainly by government agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), which gives its SAR data away for free. Airbus also has a SAR satellite system.

The problem with these satellites is that they provide an incomplete picture of the world’s oceans because there aren’t enough of them. What’s more, because they are large—about the size of a trash dumpster—and power-hungry, they typically operate where it is light to allow for solar charging.

“They only image a small portion of Earth every day,” said Woods. “So, we don’t have really good coverage of the oceans with SAR.”


Huge school of fish off the Mexican coast. Image by Matthew T. Rader via Pexels.

Although environmental watchdogs and enforcement agencies can task SAR satellites to take images of particular places where they suspect illegal fishing is taking place, such requests are expensive and time-consuming. Orders have to be placed many hours in advance, either over the phone or via fax, and there is always the possibility that requests will be deprioritized if the military wants to task the satellite at the same time.

“It costs thousands of dollars to order an image, and we have to order it up to 72 hours in advance, because we have to wait for the satellite to get into position,” said Woods, highlighting SAR’s current shortcomings.

This latency is the reason SAR data is mainly used for long-term strategic planning, such as deciding where to send patrols, rather than in live situations. “The guy who is doing illegal fishing will do it for six hours and then disappear,” said John Allan, Business Development Consultant for Capella Space. “If you’ve got to wait 24 hours to get an image, that’s useless.”

The holy grail of real-time SAR

Capella claims its satellites will provide a much faster turnaround and that its customers will be able to order on-demand images online through an API. Inmarsat, a satellite telecommunications company, will then transmit the order to Capella’s nearest satellite in a matter of seconds.

“It will do to satellite tasking what Amazon did to retail,” Allan said. “We’re going to make it so easy for people to task the satellites.”

Capella’s network is due to be fully operational by 2022, though each satellite will start taking SAR images as soon as it is launched. When all 36 satellites are up, Allan said, the constellation will be able to provide a new image of a target every hour at the equator and even more frequently the closer you get to the poles. This is a significant step towards real-time SAR.


1.2 tonnes of fish seized in Fiji

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A fishing boat sits in Fiji’s Suva harbour. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

Republished from Radio New Zealand, 21 August 2019

Fiji’s Fisheries Ministry says it has seized 1.2 tonnes of fish of which 600 kilograms are of the banned species donu (grouper) and kawakawa (mackerel tuna).

The temporary fishing bans came into effect on 1 June and ends on 30 September this year.

In June last year, a study showed the kawakawa and donu populations had declined by 70 percent over the last 30 years.

The ministry said in a statement three penalty notices had been issued.

It said the fish seized by the ministry’s enforcement personnel had been preserved for evidence in legal proceedings.

The ministry warned that any person or business found violating the four-month ban period could receive fines of up to $US20,000 for individuals and $US40,000 for corporations.

Pacific Fishing Agency celebrates 40 years

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Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen. Photo: Lisa Williams/PMN

Republished from Radio New Zealand, 12 August 2019

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) celebrated 40 years of operation with a dinner hosted by the Solomon Islands Prime Minister in Honiara.

The organisation was first housed in a two bedroom house in Lengakiki in 1979 to support the sovereign rights of coastal states to conserve and manage their ‘living resources’ including migratory species.

Director General of the FFA, Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, said the group provides a forum for regional cooperation that ensures its 17 country members can leverage fisheries resources to maximize economic and social benefits for their communities.

Reflecting on the 40 years of the organisation, Dr Tupou-Roosen said the FFA is about making a positive difference in the lives of Pacific people, and she thanked past and current staff who served the region.

Study: Climate change will redistribute tuna populations

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Photo: Inigo Onandia/AZTI

Republished from Undercurrent News, 18 April 2019

More skipjack and yellowfin tuna will move to the tropical waters, while albacore, Atlantic bluefin, bigeye and southern bluefin will shift into colder seas in the future, according to research led by AZTI, a Spanish research body. 

If a coastal country’s local fleet anticipates the changes in abundance and distribution of the target species, it may adapt its fishing gear or change its target species, said Haritz Arrizabalaga, who carried out the study with Maite Erauskin-Extramiana.

“Knowing in advance what will happen in the future enables adaptation strategies to the transformations to be drawn up. [A coastal country’s local fleet] may be able to continue fishing the same species, but investing in larger vessels, capable of going out further in search of these species,” said Arrizabalaga.

The researchers took into account the effect of the environmental conditions on the worldwide distribution of tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin, southern bluefin, tropical bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin between 1958 and 2004. This enables the influence of climate change in the future to be assessed and specific predictions to be made, they claim. The study has been published Global Change Biology

“During the historical period analyzed, the habitat distribution limits of the tuna have moved towards the poles at a rate of 6.5 kilometers per decade in the northern hemisphere and 5.5km per decade in the southern one. Based on the influence of climate change, even strong changes in tuna distribution and abundance are expected in the future, particularly at the end of the century (2088 – 2099),” said Arrizabalaga.

More specifically, the study forecasts that temperate tuna species, such as albacore, Atlantic bluefin and southern bluefin, will move towards the poles. Bigeye tuna will reduce its presence in the tropics and will move to warmer areas. On the other hand, the analysis predicts that the main two canned tuna species — skipjack and yellowfin — will become more abundant in the tropical areas, as well as in most of the fishing areas of coastal countries, or in other words, in the maritime economic exclusive zones which stretches from their coastline to a distance of 200 nautical miles.

“Tuna predictions offers relatively good news for tuna fishing to continue as an important food source, due to the origin of the main tuna protein consumption in humans comes from skipjack and yellowfin tuna from the tropical area,” said Arrizabalaga.

The study has enabled analysis on how the worldwide distribution and abundance of the main tuna species will vary due to climate change and, in this way, quantify the future trends of the tuna populations. 

“Tuna species are resources of enormous economic importance and a key source of protein for much of the population. As a result of climate change, their habitat distribution is changing and, related to this, the opportunities of different countries to access this source of wealth. This study aims to explain what has happened in the past and predict what will happen in the future so that countries and fishing fleets can come up with adaptation strategies to the new circumstances,” said Erauskin-Extramiana.