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.


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.

Three-month ban on use and servicing of FADs from 20°N to 20°S begins on 1 July

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Republished from the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission

Federated States of Micronesia, Pohnpei

Deadline: 1 Jul 2019 to 1 Oct 2019

A three-month prohibition on deploying, servicing or setting on FADs shall be in place between 0001 hours UTC on 1 July and 2359 hours UTC on 30 September each year for all purse seine vessels, tender vessels, and any other vessels operating in support of purse seine vessels fishing in exclusive economic zones and the high seas in the area between 20N and 20S.*

*Members of the PNA may implement the FAD set management measures consistent with the Third Arrangement Implementing the Nauru Agreement of May 2008. Members of the PNA shall provide notification to the Commission of the domestic vessels to which the FAD closure will not apply. That notification shall be provided within 15 days of the arrangement being approved.

Tuna experts sceptical of Japanese bluefin tuna proposal

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Tuna experts are sceptical of Japanese government’s impending proposal to seek an increase in fishing quotas for Pacific bluefin.

The Japanese government is reportedly planning to put the proposal to Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) at the Scientific Committee meeting in Busan, Korea later this month.

Their proposal will be made on the grounds that Pacific bluefin tuna stocks are on a recovery track.

However, Jamie Gibbon, the global tuna conservation officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts, says the Pacific bluefin tuna population is still severely depleted, at just 3.3 per cent of its unfished size.

He says overfishing was still occurring – with fishing rates more than twice the maximum sustainable level. Based on the current stock size, Gibbon says they opposed Japan’s proposal to increase catch limits for Pacific bluefin tuna.

“The projections that show future growth in the population are all heavily influenced by the estimate of recent recruitment (the number of new fish in the population in 2016) and that estimate is relatively uncertain, because it is based on just one observation from one source of data,” Gibbon says.

“Because of the depleted status of the population and the uncertainty about the accuracy of the future projections, we are urging members of the WCPFC to maintain the catch limits at the their current levels for at least the next two years, until a full stock assessment can be performed to confirm the results.”

Japan’s move, reports Japanese daily newspaper The Mainichi Shimbun, comes in response to a recent estimate by the International Scientific Committee (ISC) for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean that a provisional target for stock recovery can be achieved with a high probability, even if countries raised their tuna catch quotas.

After overfishing of bluefin tuna, which is a popular fish for sushi and sashimi, the WCPFC set a tentative target to recover stocks of bluefin tuna weighing 30 kilograms or more to 43,000 metric tons by 2024.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that the ISC estimated that even if countries raised their tuna catch quotas by up to 15 per cent without differentiating between large tuna and small tuna weighing under 30kg, the probability of achieving the provisional target would be 74 per cent.

But Dr John Hampton, chief scientist and deputy director of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems says he feels that the optimistic outlook was overly reliant on just one recent estimate of high recruitment, which was quite uncertain.

“If that estimate changes in the future, then the probability of meeting the recovery target would change,” Dr Hampton says. “In my opinion, it would be premature to increase quotas at this stage. I think we should wait until there is greater certainty regarding the recent high recruitment.”

Dr Hampton says the stock assessment report from the ISC also made the following cautionary statement: “However, it should be recognised that these projection results are strongly influenced by the inclusion of the relatively high, but uncertain recruitment estimate for 2016”.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Gibbon says the 16-year rebuilding plan for Pacific bluefin tuna was in just its first year, adding it was too early to start making changes.

“The members of WCFPC must give the plan time to work, or they threaten the future health of the Pacific bluefin population and the fisheries that depend on it.”