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Study Ordered On Impact Tuna On City Economy Philippines, September 7, 12

While she wants more scientific studies on why tuna stocks continue to decline in the Western and Central Pacific region before mulling on a reduction of the number of tuna catcher vessels, Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio nevertheless told the City Economic Management and Cooperative Development Office to study its impact on the tuna industry as well as local economy.

Custodio was answering queries from the media in a press conference announcing the formal opening of this year’s edition of the Tuna Festival as well as the 14th National Tuna Congress.

Conservation as well as management of the country’s tuna resources continues to be the top agenda in this year’s congress that is expected to draw more than 400 guests and delegates from all over the country and some delegation from other tuna producing countries.

The 14th National Tuna Congress opens its plenary session on Friday (September 7).

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) earlier proposed a 165,000-metric ton (MT) ceiling on annual tuna catch to arrest declining tuna stocks in Philippine waters.

Former Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industry (SFFAI) president Marefenio Tan said reducing the city’s tuna catcher vessels to not more than 50 will help in the management of tuna stocks in Philippine waters.

Tan is among the pioneers of the tuna industry and one of the city’s biggest tuna producers.

SFFAI members have a total of 162 tuna catcher vessels.

Bfar however said there are at least 300 tuna catcher vessels nationwide.

Industry leaders have admitted that Philippine waters, especially in the Sulu Sea and Sulawesi Sea, have been overfished over the last decade.

“Our primary concern is to ensure our own tuna stocks are sustainable,” Custodio added even as she said the two-year closure of four pockets of has benefited local tuna fishermen.

Dropped in tuna catches

She failed to cite data to support her claim but in 2010 and 2011, fish landings in Market 2 at the General Santos City registered a slight increase while landings at Market 1 and Market 3 dropped significantly.

Majority of the landings in Market 2 are caught within Philippine waters which increased by 5,934.33 and 6,572.14 metric tons in 2010 and 2011 respectively over the total 2009 figure of 26,174.45.

Landings in Market 3, mostly caught by large purse seines, however dropped to 9,061.13MT in 2011 from 33,369.04MT in 2007, 21,317MT in 2008 and 16,882.27 in 2009.

Frozen landings from abroad also declined in 2011 with only 53,101.04 MT compared to 70,529.55MT in 2010 and 72,557.87MT in 2009.

Total combined landings also declined in 2011 with only 112,981.81 MT as opposed to 143,139.17 in 2010.

Opened seas
The pockets of high seas lie in the strategic migratory path of tuna and tuna like species. These were closed to any form of fishing by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission following global decline of tuna catches.

In addition, the WCPFC also imposes an annual 3-month ban on FAD fishing between July and September.

FAD stands for fish aggregating devices FADs which attract school of fish underneath a shaded area composed of large bundles of buri (a kind of sturdy palm) leaves held on by an anchor below and kept afloat by a steel buoy above the surface of the seas.

FADS have been labeled as a destructive method of fishing but are widely considered as appropriate and efficient method of catching tuna and tuna-like specie.

In March this year, however, the WCPFC lifted the ban in High Seas Pocket 1 exclusively for Philippine tuna fishermen beginning October 1.

A sendoff ceremony will be held at the General Santos City Fishport complex on September 25 to mark the return of Filipino tuna fisherman in an area about 590,000 square kilometers north of Papua New Guinea and east of southern Indonesia known as Pocket 1 among member countries of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

The Philippines is a member of the WCPFC.

Some 36 Philippine flagged tuna catcher vessels will join the voyage.