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FAD Ban Depresses Philippine Tuna Catches In High Seas Pockets

Due to the closure on fish aggregating devices (FADs), there are still no Philippine fishing vessels in a tuna-rich pocket of the Pacific Ocean, an Agriculture official said yesterday.

“There are still no fishing vessels in the High Seas Pocket Number 1 (HSP1) as those vessels that use FADs or payao are still banned. All of our 36 vessels are using payao,” Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Assistant Director for Administrative Services Benjamin F. S. Tabios, Jr. said in a phone interview.

HSP1 is a 560,000-square-mile area east of Indonesia and north of Palau.
Although the Philippines has been given exclusive access to continue fishing in HSP1 until Feb. 28, 2014, it still cannot do so as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has banned the use of FADs in purse seine fisheries to avoid impending fisheries disaster.
“The ban has a great impact to the tuna production of the country because access to the HSP1 means there is a chance to increase tuna production by 50,000 to 60,000 metric tons annually,” Mr. Tabios added.
As a compatible measure for the WCPFC’s Conservation and Management Measure 2012-01, the Department of Agriculture (DA) published a bulletin in a newspaper yesterday to say that FAD closure within the Philippine exclusive economic zone was also extended for four months.
Fisheries Administrative Order No. 236-2, states that the ban shall be effective from July 1 to Oct. 31, 2013.
Section 2 of the said order states that the BFAR shall conduct inspection and marketing of purse seine and ring net fishing gear.
The order also prohibits the use of unauthorized nets during the FAD closure period and the setting up of FADs without observers.
Any fishing company that violates the order will be fined P100,000-P300,000 (USD 2,300-6,900) for small-scale commercial fishing; P400,000-P700,000 (USD 9,200-16,000) for medium-scale commercial fishing; and P800,000-P1 million (USD 18,300- 23,000) for large-scale commercial fishing.
Republic Act 8550 or The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 defines small scale commercial fishing as “fishing with passive or active gear utilizing fishing vessels of 3.1-20 gross tons (GT)”; medium-scale involves vessels of 20.1-150 GT; and large-scale, those of more than 150 GT.
The new administrative order also allows BFAR to impose the maximum fine, confiscate the catch, and cancel commercial fishing vessel / gear license when a company commits violations for the fourth time.
The order shall take effect 15 days after publication, or at the end of this month.