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New EU Policy On Tuna From IUU Vessels Worries Philippine Tuna Canneries

The European Union’s implementation next year of a fisheries product regulation will have an adverse impact on the country’s tuna industry, an industry official said on Monday.

Bayani B. Fredeluces, executive director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., said at least two sectors of the tuna industry — fishing and canning — stand to bear the burden of Europe’s regulation slated to take effect January 1, 2010. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has started consulting tuna industry players regarding Europe’s regulation aimed to stem illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing around the globe.

“We will ask for clarifications on this policy and perhaps an extension [of the deadline]. BFAR told us that European officials may arrive by June in the country to meet with tuna industry leaders,” Mr. Fredeluces told Business World.

Under Europe’s fisheries product policy, tuna fish producers are required to provide a catch certificate that details where the stocks where caught and the volume or in other words the traceability of the supplies. Mr. Fredeluces said this policy may develop as a non-tariff barrier on the Philippine side.

The Bureau of Export Trade Promotion, the export arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has reported last year that Europe has one of the largest fishing fleets in the world, and is the third largest in “catching power,” or its ability to catch fish. At the same time, Europe is the largest importer of fishery products with imports amounting to Php 15 billion.

Mr. Fredeluces said that canned tuna producers, under the same policy, should also not accept stocks that have no catch certificate, otherwise the goods will not be accepted in Europe, he added. “Simply, if a company ships to Europe starting next year, it should attach the catch certificate to be able to enter that market,” Mr. Fredeluces explained.

Six of the seven tuna canneries of the Philippines are based in this city.

Mr. Fredeluces said that Europe’s policy will also affect Filipino fishing vessel operators as they need to infuse more capital to upgrade their fleet to comply with the handling requirements imposed. In such case, fish stocks supplied to canneries will become expensive, thus possible raising also the price of the finished canned tuna product, Mr. Fredeluces said.

Francisco J. Buencamino, Jr., executive director of the Tuna Canners Association of the Philippines, will reportedly submit a formal request to the European Union, through the BFAR and DTI, their request for postponing the implementation of regulation and other concerns.

The European Commission has been active in the fight against IUU fishing in over a decade because the governing body considers it one of the most dangerous threats to the sustainable exploitation of live aquatic resources.

The commission adopted the Common Fisheries Policy based on its 2002 Action Plan as directly inspired by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ International Plan of Action in 2001 to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.

Ministers from member-states of the European Union reached a political agreement on a regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing on June 24, 2008. The regulation was formally adopted by the European council on September 29, 2008 and will be enforced on January 1, 2010.