Tuna being unloaded at General Santos. (Photo: Jibrael Angel Blog)
BFAR optimistic about lifting of tuna ban
Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 04:10 (GMT + 9)
The limited opening of Pacific Ocean tuna fishing could bring 90,000 tonnes of fish for local companies, a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) official said this week.
The West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) approved the lifting of the purse seine fishing ban in pockets 1 and 2 of the Pacific Ocean until February 2013.
Still, WCPFC does not think this will make a big difference to the Philippines.
“The Philippines can fish in high sea pocket 1 only and any reporting in the press otherwise is wrong,” said Glenn Hurry, executive director of the WCPFC, Asian Correspondent reports.
However, no Philippine fishing firm has thus far sent off its vessels to pockets 1 and 2 of the Pacific Ocean pending the publication of the fisheries administrative order on the matter, which should be finished within the month, said Ambutong K Pautong, BFAR Region 12 acting director, Business World reports.
The country produces over 2 million tonnes of tuna per year. In 2011, frozen tuna landings dropped by about 19 per cent in General Santos City to about 110,000 tonnes in 2011 from roughly 150,000 tonnes in 2010 and earlier.
Secretary Luwalhati R Antonino, chairwoman of the Mindanao Development Authority, said that while the country has been granted access, "efforts must also be exerted to prevent abuse."
Last week, BFAR and tuna industry players held a meeting to discuss how Philippine fishing companies should benefit from the newly granted limited fishing access to the Pacific.
"Thirty-six Philippine fishing vessels have now been given limited access to the tuna fishing ground -- but Philippine vessel deployment will not take place until after September, as the WCPFC will close that part of the Pacific Ocean for three months starting in July as part of a yearly conservation measure, Pautong noted.
He had said that canneries in the city have been producing less due to lower catches supposedly attributed to the two-year fishing ban.
Pautong said the proposed guidelines, which will be set in consultation with the private sector-led Tuna Council of the Philippines, include assigning a specific catching ground to the fishing companies, which have agreed to impose high penalties on violators.
"We must live up to the expectations of WCPFC. We must satisfactorily comply with the provisions of the Conservation and Management Measure if we want to continue fishing in pockets 1 and 2 beyond 2013," said Asis G Perez, BFAR national director.
Tuna remains one of Mindanao’s top exports, with a combined value of USD 311 million in 2010.
The WCPFC banned commercial fishing in pockets 1 and 2 of the high seas in 2008 to mitigate overfishing of bigeye and yellowfin tuna. The ban took effect in 2010.
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