BFAR to study declining tuna resources

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 Oct) – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will be conducting a biological assessment study to check on the declining tuna resources and how to sustain the country’s tuna industry.

This came after reports that tuna exports from this city, dubbed as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” that hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canneries, dropped significantly.

BFAR regional director Sani D. Macabalang said that the country’s tuna resources are in a critical stage.

BFAR statistics showed that Region 12, or Southwestern Mindanao, exported 34 million kilograms of frozen whole round tuna and pouched and canned tuna to the European Union from January to June this year, which is a 25-percent decrease in fishery products exported to the 27-member states compared to the previous five years.

The tuna industry exported a total of $242 million last year, Macabalang said.

He said the biological assessment study, which is aimed at strengthening the tuna industry,

is jointly undertaken by the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) and the National Stock Assessment Project of BFAR-Region 12. It is focused on the three top export tuna species in Philippine waters, namely, yellowfin, big-eye and skipjack.

The biological study, which will run until August 2011, aims to determine the length at first capture and spawning seasons of these tuna species. It includes sexual maturity determination, sex ratios, age and length composition and length-weight relationship, which are significant data in stock assessment.

Eunice Bognot, marine fisheries research division project leader of NFRDI, said that the one-year study will be conducted in 10 consecutive days every month, both in municipal and commercial waters.

“The team will conduct biological samplings, dissect tuna species and measure the fish in order to determine the length, weight and sexual maturity stages,” Bognot said.

Macabalang attributed the slower performance of the tuna industry to the ban imposed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission on purse seine fishing method in portions of the Pacific Ocean.

The study is BFAR’s commitment to the international Fisheries Commission on the proper regulations, protection and management of tuna resources.

The ban imposed by WCPFC took effect last January and will last for two years, but is subject for review at the end of this year.

Handline method, which employs hook and line fishing in catching large mature tuna, is not covered by the WCPFC ban.

Several local fishing companies have been hurt by the ban, with the Department of Labor and Employment providing their workers’ assistance to cope with the impact. (MindaNews)