BFAR expects 80,000 MT more tuna harvest in the Pacific

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 July) —  The country is expected to regain between 70,000 to 80,000 metric tons of tuna catch once Philippine companies begin fishing in September or October in a limited portion of the Pacific Ocean, an official said.

The Philippines was given access to the rich tuna fishing ground in central Pacific by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) earlier this year.

This expected additional tonnage to the yearly catch would help offset the 30 percent decline in the Philippine tuna catch immediately after the High Seas Pocket 1, one of the rich tuna areas in the Asian side of the Pacific was closed to fishing two years ago, Asis Perez, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said.

The High Seas Pocket 1 is the fishing ground bounded by Palau, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the scattered islands and islets of the Federation of Micronesian central Pacific.

To recall, the WCPFC banned commercial fishing in pockets 1 and 2 of the high seas with the issuance of the Conservation and Management Measure in 2008 to mitigate overfishing of big-eye and yellow-fin tuna and to limit the growth of fishing capacity in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

The ban, for two years, took effect in January1, 2010.

The Philippines is among the 25 member countries of WCPFC, which regulates migratory fish stocks such as big-eye and yellow-fin tuna in the Pacific.

The Philippines has an annual catch of up to 350,000 metric tons, Perez said.

Philippine trade negotiators were able to persuade the Asia-Pacific body to allow Filipino fishers to resume fishing after showing the regulatory body the ability of Filipinos to engage in sustainable fishing.

“This is aside from our argument that tuna were known to spawn in our archipelago, and the ‘spawners’ would be endangered if Filipino fishermen would be denied of catching tuna in the traditional fishing grounds,” Perez said.

Also, our negotiators have shown that tuna fishing has been a major deep-sea fishing activity among Filipinos, with many of the tuna-fishing boats prowling the high seas all going back to southern Philippines when the tuna fishing was banned.

“This resulted in the rise of armed fighting in the high seas among Filipino fishing groups. This was also our argument against continued ban in the tuna fishing grounds, that this resulted to a social problem that we have to face,”he said.

Perez said that the regulatory body granted the Philippines access to this fishing ground in March this year. He said Filipino fisherfolk would likely begin fishing anew in September or October.  (MindaNews)