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by Belinda Sales Canlas
THE BUREAU of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) launched in 2018 the National Tuna Management Plan (NTMP). What is the NTMP all about? Will it benefit our ocean resources? Our Filipino fishers? Our population? Does it have an impact on our lives? These are interesting questions and beg meaningful answers.
According to BFAR, the NTMP is aimed at establishing a sustainably-managed and equitably-allocated Tuna fisheries by 2026 that will promote responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products. By now, I think we can all agree that responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products will help ensure continuous provision of gainful livelihood and substantial income to Tuna fishers while providing growth opportunities to associated business, and most importantly, food security for the growing population of the country. That is what the plan envisions.
In the plan, BFAR says that as one of the major Tuna-fishing nations, the Philippines should be able to balance its need for growth and development (which drives its increasing Tuna fishing requirements) against the need for sustainability (which requires it to engage in internal cooperative arrangements in managing Tunas and other highly migratory and transboundary fish stocks). Balance is always the key. You don’t keep the balance, something’s bound to keel over. It’s not only applicable to the fishing sector, even to agriculture, the environment like preservation of trees versus road widening, among others.
Data from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) show that in 2017, 55 percent of the world’s Tuna catch totalled 2.6 million MT. 80-85 percent of the WCPFC catches were derived from Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs); 30 percent from West Pacific East Asia; and 10 percent from the Philippines. Given these statistics, there is a need for transnational fishery cooperation. Big word. What’s transnational fishery cooperation? It is plainly implementing increased joint management measures designed to protect the Tuna and other Tuna-like and migratory resources across various countries. That’s right across various countries for Tuna fishing has already gone global. It’s no longer confined to Philippine municipal waters and the EEZ. This cooperation is played out even within Philippines waters as evidenced by the high degree of inter-dependence among its Tuna fisheries, the plan further explained.
The WCPFC covers the following countries: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu, Members; American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, Participating Territories; and Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Liberia, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cooperating Non-Members.
The plan further stated that increasing catch levels in Western and Central Pacific Ocean have led the WCPFC to adopt, for implementation by member-countries, the Philippine included, a growing number of Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs). It applies to the catching, processing, and marketing of Skipjack, Yellowfin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Albacore Tuna, and Pacific Bluefin Tuna. It covers both municipal and commercial fishing employing purse seine, ring net, long line, handline (hook and line), and other fishing methods and gears that are operated in Philippine waters including the EEZ. Likewise, it covers certain operations of Philippine-flagged vessels fishing beyond national jurisdictions (high seas and/or jurisdiction of other coastal states).
According to the plan, Tuna fishing in the Philippines involves both municipal (<3 GT) and commercial (>3 GT) fishing vessels. Municipal handline, troll line, and gill net, among others, are used to catch oceanic Tunas. Small-scale and medium-scale commercial vessels (3.1-150 GT) like the purse seine, ring net, and handline are the primary fishing boats which fish beyond municipal waters and the EEZ. Philippine-flagged purse seine/ring vessels (not more than 250 GT), currently limited to 36 Tuna catchers, operate in High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP1) in consonance with WCPFC policy.
Now, what is the coverage of HSP1? Why is this a big thing in Tuna fishing? HSP1 or the high seas is bounded by the EEZs of the Federated States of Micronesia to the north and east, Republic of Palau to the west, and Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to the south. Our Filipino fishers are allowed to fish in this area subject to CMMs issued by the WCPFC. S
THERE are 455 commercial fish landing centers in the country. These include the Philippine Fisheries and Development Authority and local government unit-controlled ports, as well as private wharves.
The General Santos Fish Port Complex is the country’s major tuna unloading port, where 189,944.2 metric tons (MT) of tuna were unloaded in 2017.
The Navotas Fish Port Complex in Metro Manila is the country’s second largest tuna port, where 6,821.56 MT of tuna were unloaded in 2017, the plan further reported.
BFAR targets to put up 729 community fish landing centers nationwide. This is a good plan because the construction of such will provide a proper and hygienic hub for the fishermen to land their catch; serve as a monitoring site; a training ground for the fisherfolk; and, in part (via its roof deck), as facility for sun drying and smoking of fish during peak months. Now, 411 units are already completed and 89 are operational, as of May 2018. Of course, we are pushing BFAR to complete the target number and make them all operational to benefit the fisherfolk.
Moving forward, seven out of nine tuna canneries in the country with a combined capacity to process raw tuna at 950 tons per day or about 189,000-216,000 tons annually, are located in General Santos City. With annual fresh tuna landing of 90,000 tons (average for the last three years) coming from Philippine fishing grounds and the HSP1, the tuna canning industry plays a very crucial role as a big and sustainable market for the tuna fishing industry. This information is derived from “Tuna: At the Heart of General Santos” coffee table book, published in September 2018.
Moreover, 90 percent of the national tuna production is located in Mindanao, providing jobs and annual direct revenues of $400 million. General Santos City, as the center of the tuna industry, hosts 15 of the 19 fish processors and exporters of the country. With all these data, we can safely say that indeed, General Santos City has rightfully earned the moniker, “Tuna Capital of the Philippines”.
The plan covered issues related to tuna fisheries. Inputs from the 18th National Tuna Congress in 2016 and the regional cluster consultations conducted in 2017 and 2018, respectively, are incorporated, thus:
a) Sustainability of Tuna Resources – Current indicators of oceanic Tuna Species (Skipjack, Yellowfin Tuna, and Bigeye Tuna) provide optimism on improved resources in the Western Central Pacific Ocean or WCPO. However, uncertainties and risks accompany Bigeye Tuna. Increasing catch and fishing mortality on key Tuna species require careful management.
b) Resource Use conflict (between commercial and municipal fisheries) – Competition between the various fisheries and sectors has caused issues on equitable distribution of fishing access. An example is the use of payao by commercial purse seine and ring net vessels resulting in handliners moving farther away and eventually losing fishing ground in the municipal waters.
c) Limited post-harvest facilities resulting in high post-harvest losses
d) Limited socio-economic benefits and alternative livelihood opportunities to tuna fishers
e) Limited market and stringent trade/market/credit requirements (including EU and US market standards).
f) Need to strengthen governance on tuna fisheries management.
g) Illegal unreported unregulated or IUU fishing.
All these crucial issues need to be addressed and resolved, and BFAR, being the fisheries authority of the country, mainly responsible for commercial fishing in national waters and the EEZ, and managing the high seas/distant water tuna fishing fleet, is the rightful government office to push for the resolution of these issues in partnership with stakeholders and the industry.
Meanwhile, the LGUs are authorized to manage fishing and fishing activities in municipal waters. They can adopt regulations for the conservation, management, and exploitation of tuna in municipal waters.
For more information about the specific Goals and Objectives of the plan, you can contact BFAR, Capture Fisheries Division through Tel. No. (02) 9294894 or visit their website at http://www.bfar.da.gov.ph/.
For comments, you may reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org./PN