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Handline & Longline Catch Could Fill The Gap For Philippine Tuna Fishing Ban

The closure of western and central portions of the Pacific Ocean in the next two months to purse seine operators employing fish-aggregating devices (FADs) in catching tuna “won’t affect supply” to the canneries here, but could affect the price, industry stakeholders said.

In fact, government and private sources said the ban on FAD fishing, which is in effect starting August 1 until September 30, is a welcome development initiative since this will allow the high-migratory tuna stocks to replenish.

“The tuna industry is well prepared on this fishing ban. We have conducted many dialogues with them. I don't think tuna supply to the local canneries will face a shortfall?” said Malcolm I. Sarmiento Jr., director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

“The canneries have stored lots of tuna fish [to tide them during the FAD fishing ban],” said Dexter T. Teng, president of the South Cotabato Purse-Seiners Association.

It will not only be the purse seine fishing boats from the Philippines that will be affected by the FAD fishing ban but all the rest of the nations fishing in the western and central Pacific ocean, Teng added.

“It’s a short term sacrifice on the part of purse seine operators for the long-term good of the global tuna industry,” he said.

With the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) expected to strictly implement the ban, Teng said local purse seine operators will take the opportunity to dry-dock their fleet for maintenance works during the period, since they usually anyway perform such operations every year.

The Philippines is a signatory to member countries of the WCPFC, which has been discussing the tuna conservation efforts in the past several years.

Sarmiento said the government will strictly abide with the FAD ban, saying his agency will take decisive actions such as suspending or revoking the licenses of erring boat owners.

FAD fishing, locally called “payaos,” includes the putting up of anchored or floating structures that attract fishes to the facilities. Many juvenile fishes are thus caught. Bigeye and yellowfin tuna are considered the most overfished species over the years.

The WCPFC ban on FAD fishing will not only apply to the international waters within the western and central Pacific Ocean but also to the exclusive economic zones of the member countries, Sarmiento said.

But it does not cover long-line and hand-line tuna fishing, he noted, allaying fears of supply shortfall since these catching methods could supply the gap.