RP finds alternative measure to allow tuna fishing despite FAD ban

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 July) – The Philippines has found an alternative measure that would allow Filipino fishers to catch tuna in its exclusive economic zone, even as the three-month ban on fish aggregating device (FAD) is now in effect, a tuna industry official said.

Bayani B. Fredeluces, executive director of the Socsargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc, said the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BAFR) has issued an administrative order allowing tuna catching in the country’s EEZ despite the ban.

“Fishing operators need to be accredited by BFAR based on the alternative measure that was arrived after conducting a data analysis,” he said.

Based on the study conducted by BFAR and the local tuna industry, only 0.5% of bigeye tuna stocks were caught using nets with a depth of 125 fathoms or 750 feet, which Freduluces described as “negligible.”

To address limiting the catching of bigeye, he said,  government is allowing tuna fishing operations provided the nets used will be at least 115 fathoms or 690 feet only as bigeye tuna thrives on much deeper water.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international fisheries regulating body, first imposed the ban on FAD fishing from August to September last year.

FAD, locally called “payaos,” is a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary structure or device made from any material and used to lure fish, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The ban this year started on July 1 and will end September 30 and will be imposed again covering the same period next year.

WCPFC introduced the measure in the western and central Pacific, among the members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), with the aim of reducing the fishing mortality of bigeye tuna, as well the yellowfin variety, by 30% over three years.

The PNA countries include the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Although not a PNA-member country, the Philippines adopted the ban in its EEZ as a member of the WCPFC, and implemented it last year.

Fredeluces said that since the first week of June, several fishing companies had sought accreditation with BFAR by letting agency representatives measure the length of their nets not to exceed 115 fathoms.

He said there is an estimated 350 small-to-medium fishing vessels engaged in tuna catching based in this “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”

Dexter  Teng, president of the South Cotabato Purse-Seiners Association, earlier expressed support to the FAD ban.

He said the ban would allow tuna stocks to replenish, which will be good for the long-term benefit of the global tuna industry.

The FAD ban comes into effect again as the WCPFC observes the closure of pockets of the high seas of the western and eastern Pacific to purse seine fishing.

The purse seine fishing ban in the Pacific started last January 1 and will be lifted December 2011.

To date, eight local fishing companies have been affected by the ban, the Department of Labor and Employment reported. (MindaNews)