Creation of permanent fisheries body pushed as new tuna management regime looms in Pacific

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 6 Sept) – The creation of a permanent body to represent the country in Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) is important for the long-term sustainability and profitably of the tuna industry in the wake of a new tuna management regime that will be put in place next year in the Pacific Ocean, government and tuna industry executives said Friday.

Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), pushed for the creation of a Philippine Committee for the Advancement of Migratory Fisheries (PCAMF), a body to represent the Philippines in RFMOs like the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

“With current global issues on fisheries having impact on our [tuna] industry, we must exert a strong and united presence in RFMOs such as the WCPFC,” she said during the 15th National Tuna Congress.

Hundreds of participants, including delegates from 14 countries, attended the congress themed “Celebrating 15 Years of Advocacy, Partnership and Collaboration.”

Antonino said that in December 2014, the WCPFC 10 will establish a program to protect tuna stocks so that the species can produce maximum sustainable yield.

Covered by the multi-year management program for 2014 to 2017 are bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna, she added.

Antonino noted the new program will eventually replace the interim measure and will determine the fate of the country’s fishing access in the High Seas Pocket (HSP) 1.

She was referring to WCPFC’s Conservation and Management Measure 2008-01 titled “Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean,” a measure that sought to reduce fishing effort by 30% for bigeye tuna within a three-year period and no increase in fishing effort for yellowfin tuna.

The measure resulted to the banning of purse seine fishing in two pockets of the Pacific Ocean beginning January 1, 2010.

In December 2011, the WCPFC granted the Philippines limited access to High Seas Pocket 1 involving only 36 tuna fishing vessels.

WCPFC counts as members the Philippines and 24 other countries.

Antonino said the creation of the PCAMF, the proposed permanent body to represent the country in RFMOs, is important “to sustain our gains in the WCPFC.”

“The Philippine government will ensure that our tuna industry will get its rightful share from this global resource,” she said.

Joaquin Lu, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., said the creation of a permanent fisheries committee to represent the country in RFMOs would significantly help in sustaining the local tuna industry.

“We have been working for that and we hope that President (Benigno) Aquino will issue an executive order for its creation,” he told MindaNews at the conference sidelines.

Lu cited as one of their efforts for the creation of a permanent fisheries committee is for the government to transform the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) into a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR).

BFAR is currently under the Department of Agriculture.

One of the resolutions of this year’s tuna congress reiterated the request for Congress to expedite the passage of a law creating a DFAR and for the President to certify the proposed bill as a priority or urgent measure.