2-year tuna ban in the Pacific extended

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/9 Jan) – The two-year ban on purse seine tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean has been extended for another three months following the deferment until March of last month’s scheduled annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a tuna industry leader here said.

Marfenio Tan, director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAII), said the eighth regular session of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (or WCPFC8) was moved to March 26-30 in Guam from its December 5-9, 2011 schedule in Koror, Palau.

He said the postponement of the meeting extended for another three months the resolution of the purse seine fishing ban in pockets of the Pacific Ocean that practically slowed down the tuna fishing industry here in the last two years.

“The WCPFC will convene on the last week of March in Guam and part of the discussions will center on whether the fishing ban will be extended or (purse seine fishing in the Pacific) will be totally banned,” Tan said.

The WCPFC, a treaty-based organization that leads the conservation and management of fish stocks in the Pacific Ocean, imposed a two-year fishing ban starting on January 1, 2010 in two pockets of the high seas in the western and eastern areas to replenish the dwindling stocks of the highly migratory tuna species.

Pocket one covers Palau, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, which are the areas closest to the Philippines and where local purse seine tuna fishing companies operate.

In an official notice dated December 22 to its members, cooperating non-members and participating territories, WCPFC executive director Prof. Glenn Hurry noted that the WCPFC8 meeting will take place on March 26-30 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Guam with logistical and administrative support from the US (United States) and Guam officials.

The notice did not cite the reasons for the postponement of the meeting but a report posted last week at the global tuna resource website www.atuna.com said WCPFC8 “has been shifted to Guam after a fire in November at Palau’s main power plant.”

The incident, which forced electricity rationing in Palau’s capital of Koror, reportedly prompted the commission to move the meeting to Guam in March.

The national government earlier constituted a team composed of officials from the departments of Agriculture, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry, Mindanao Development Authority and fishing industry leaders to push for the country’s agenda in the WCPFC meeting, among them the lifting of the fishing ban.

The team was tasked to present the country’s position in the discussions on the stock status of key tuna species and evaluation of the WCPFC’s Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) 2008-01, which provided for the two-year fishing ban.

The Tuna Canners Association of the Philippines earlier reported that the country’s tuna production dropped by 20 percent in the first three quarters of 2011 as a result of the continuing fishing ban.

The city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries.

Around 2,000 workers from tuna fishing companies in this city that were affected by the fishing ban had been so far displaced and availed of livelihood and emergency employment assistance from the Department of Labor and Employment since early 2010. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)

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