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Lottery Draw Will Determine Pacific Pocket Tuna Fishing Rights Philippines, August 20, 12

The Philippine government is preparing to select local tuna fishing companies that will be awarded the right to catch tuna in a limited portion of the western Pacific Ocean in line with the access given to the Philippines last April by a global body, a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) official said on Tuesday last week.

Ambutong K. Pautong, BFAR Central Mindanao acting director, said in a telephone interview that the companies would be chosen via drawing of lots.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) last April allowed access to the area to 36 Philippine purse seine vessels. The body, of which the Philippines is a member, had imposed the two-year ban on purse seine fishing in parts of the western Pacific Ocean in January 2010.

Mr. Pautong said BFAR is now finalizing the fisheries administrative order that will lay out the procedure for rights allocation to interested companies.

He noted that such companies can start fishing in October.

Local fishing magnate Marfenio Y. Tan, former chairman of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied industries, Inc., said separately that there are still issues that have to be threshed out, including size of nets to be used, the scheme for monitoring compliance of vessels with standards and regulations to be set by the administrative order, as well as the inclusion of WCPFC observers in fishing expeditions.

He said fisheries policy-makers and tuna industry leaders will discuss these issues in the 14th National Tuna Congress to be held in General Santos on Sept. 6-7. The congress will have the theme “Opening New Grounds and Strengthening Commitments: A Resilient Tuna Industry.”

Mr. Tan also said further that consultations with interested companies have yielded agreement on some issues, including assignment of specific fishing areas to those that will be awarded rights and the imposition of monetary penalty of up to P1 million for violations of standards and regulations.

Six of the seven tuna canneries in the country are based in General Santos, and BFAR’s Mr. Pautong said resumption of fishing in the rich Pacific waters should ease production difficulties these companies have encountered due to the fishing ban.

Resumed operations are expected to yield at least 90,000 metric tons of tuna for the local industry.

Tuna remains one of the top exports of Mindanao with freight-on-board value totaling some $311 million in 2010.

The tuna industry employs at least 100,000 people in activities involving fishing, processing and canning, and other auxiliary services.

The United States, European Union and Japan remain the top export destinations of tuna products from the Philippines.