After 3 years, law on handline tuna fishing still without IRR

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 September)—The law governing handline tuna fishing is still waiting for its Implementing Rules and  Regulations three years after its passage, an official of a tuna fishers group recently revealed.

Marferio Tan, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. said the IRR would have simplified the regulations governing handline tuna fishing and promoted the growth of the sector

Handline tuna fishers, a source of sashimi-grade tuna for Japanese and American markets, contribute some P4.5 billion to the local tuna
industry three years ago.

Handline fishing employs the traditional hook-and-line method in catching large mature tuna and marlin species marketed abroad in whole
fresh or chilled form.

“There is an urgent need to fast-track the issuance of IRR of Republic Act 9379 as the tuna handline industry is faced with several other
regulations such as catch documentation,” Tan said.
The Handline law requires the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Transportation
and Communications’ National Telecommunications Commission and the Maritime Industry Authority to promulgate simplified policies and
procedures governing the handline fishing, in consultation with industry stakeholders.

Tan said the handline fishing players are urging the concerned government agencies to schedule the final consultation in this city, the center of the country’s tuna production.

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed on March 8, 2007 RA 9379, or “An Act Defining Hand-line Fishing, Providing Effective Regulations Therefor and for Other Purposes.”

Lobbying for a special law on handline fishing took about three years, spearheaded by the Alliance of Tuna Hand-liners here, until Arroyo signed it.

The alliance then described the approval of the hand-line fishing law as “a victory for the handline tuna fishermen.”

A senior official from the alliance who requested anonymity said on Monday that BFAR and NTC have agreed to a simplified IRR under RA 9379
but not the MARINA.

MARINA insisted that boat captains and crews of handline fishing boats shall have the necessary educational degrees to operate a vessel, one
which many handline fishermen could not acquire due to financial constraints, the source said.

Efforts to reach MARINA officials proved futile.

Prior to the law’s approval, handline fishing players lamented that handline pump boats are in the same category with big commercial fishing vessels.

They said the handline law is significant because it also seeks to give weight to traditional fishing practices and small fishermen by defining hand-line commercial fishing boat and commercial net fishing vessel.

Three years ago, the alliance comprised at least 2,500 large pump boats that employed some 40,000 fishermen, with an annual landing
catch of over 30,000 metric tons of high- value tuna worth P4.5 billion, industry records had showed. (MindaNews)