Tuna industry players need to diversify amid tough times—gov’t execs

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/08 September)—Top government officials have called on the players in the multi-million tuna industry to diversify in the face of tough challenges saddling the sector.

Secretaries Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture and Luwalhati Antonino of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) made the recommendation apparently in admission of the dire situation besetting the local tuna industry.

Since January 1, 2010, pockets of the Pacific Ocean has been closed to purse seine fishing, in areas where commercial Filipino tuna fishing companies take their catches. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission imposed the ban until the end of this year.

But at the same time that the purse seine ban will end, another measure will take effect that was seen to weigh an impact on the country’s tuna industry, this time through Indonesia.

Jakarta will start imposing a stricter measure in December 2011 to protect its rich fishing ground, where most Philippine hand-line and purse seine tuna fishers get their catch.

Under the new measure, Indonesia’s fisheries commission would now require all those who intend to fish in their waters to have their catch processed in Indonesia, increase the number of Indonesian crew in fishing vessels, and limit access of fishing vessels to those with a minimum load limit of 60 tons.

‘We recognize the challenges now being faced by our tuna industry arising from more aggressive tuna-producing competitors abroad, fluctuation of prices in the world market, limitations on export trade, as well as control of fishing grounds,” Antonino said in a statement.

“These realities, notwithstanding, must not stall us from pursuing our vision of growth and expansion to serve the growing domestic and global demands. This calls for us to creatively find ways to boost the industry with alternatives,” she added.

Amid concerns on declining tuna fish catch, Alcala, also in the same statement, stressed the need to start the conservation and preservation of biodiversity to uphold sustainability of the fisheries sector.

He suggested that industry players must look into a number of prospects that can be pursued under high value aquaculture and mariculture as alternative to capture fisheries.

Alcala asked industry stakeholders to not only focus on tuna production but diversify investments and consider joint ventures in agricultural farming, indicating milkfish production as one among the options ideal in the coastal areas.

He cited Sarangani as one of the country’s best in milkfish production.

According to MinDA, aquaculture now leads the production among the three subcategories of the fisheries sector, with a volume harvest of 2.7 million metric tons in 2010, comprising 51% of the country’s total marine production last year.

The other two categories are marine, where the tuna industry falls, and inland fisheries. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)