Tuna firms urged to shift from purse seine to pole and line fishing

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 July) – Local skip jack tuna producers should consider shifting to pole and line fishing to further avert dwindling supply caused by overfishing, a Greenpeace campaigner said here on Wednesday.


Vince Cinches, Greenpeace Southeast Asia ocean campaigner, said that several tuna fishing companies have considered the possibility of shifting from purse seine fishing to the more sustainable pole and line fishing.


“RD [Group of Companies] is looking at using pole and line fishing to become part of their operation,” he said in a press briefing here.


Cinches did not identify the others but noted their primary concern is on the cost of converting from purse seine to pole and line fishing.


Most of the local fishing companies here use purse seine vessels in catching skipjack that they supply to the canneries.


Ibrahim Athif Shakoor, International Pole and Line Foundation secretary general, said that pole and line fishing is relatively cheaper than purse seine.


Compared to $25 million to $30 million for a purse seine fleet, a pole and line vessel only costs as much as $330,000, he told MindaNews separately.


Shakoor said that a pole and line vessel could accommodate up to 60 tons.


Speaking from the experience of his country, the coastal state of Maldives, he noted that pole and line fishing is employed by hundreds of small companies in just a day’s fishing operation due to the proximity of rich skipjack and yellowfin tuna grounds.


Local fishing companies here, on the other hand, fish in the international waters that reportedly take six days for their carrier vessels to unload their catches in this port city.


Greenpeace said that sustainable fishing practices are crucial in reversing the ongoing decline of fish stock in the Philippine seas.


“We are running out of fish and running out of time. For a country known for marine biodiversity, there are very few fish left to catch,” Cinches said in a separate statement.


“The government’s recent plans to import fish from other Asian countries like China and Taiwan is a clear sign that our seas have now collapsed, with the local fishing industry, particularly the livelihoods of small-scale fishermen, at risk,” he added.



Greenpeace, along with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., is holding a forum here tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss the benefits of pole and line fishing.


Modern fishing techniques have resulted in unwanted and unsustainable by-catch and overfishing that has wiped out some tuna populations, Greenpeace said.


Pole and line, on the other hand, is a traditional method used by few countries in the South Pacific that employs a pole, a line, a hook, and a bait boat.


“There is huge potential for pole and line fishing in the Philippines. Not only is it safe for the environment, but it is also economically advantageous to fishermen who will engage in it, as we have seen in the fishing economy of the Maldives,” Shakoor said.


Bill Holden, Pacific fisheries manager of the Marine Stewardship Council, said that as an archipelago, the Philippines should tap into the vast resources of its seas without harming the ocean’s ecosystem.


“A good first step would be to employ pole and line fishing,” he said.


Greenpeace urged for a full cooperation between the government, fishing industries and communities to work together to develop sustainable and responsible fisheries in order to revive the Philippine seas.


More than 70 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, overly exploited or significantly depleted, and the Philippine situation is a stark reflection of this sad reality, Cinches said, urging the adoption of pole and line fishing in the country. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)