Tuna industry players pushing for harmonization of fishing practices in ASEAN

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 Sept) – Tuna industry players here are pushing for the harmonization of fishing practices and standards in Southeast Asia in the wake of the commencement later this year of the region’s economic integration.

Joaquin Lu, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. (SFFAII), said Thursday there’s need for the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to synchronize their fishery regulations to ensure better regional cooperation.

He said fisheries play a vital role in the growth of the ASEAN region as it covers some of the most productive waters in the world, contributing to food security and generating millions of income opportunities.

But he said the sector has been facing significant challenges due to the depleted state of various wild fish stocks, lack of accurate statistics on stock status and poor management of fishery resources.

“Along with the establishment of ASEAN as a single market and production base, the harmonization of fishing practices and standards should be a key priority,” he said in a press conference.

Lu noted that as early as 2012, SFFAII already joined the ASEAN Seafood Federation (ASF) in support of its goals to enhance its commitment towards regional cooperation.

He said the establishment of the ASF, which is chaired by the fishing federation until 2016, is an essential foundation that will further enhance cooperation between ASEAN member-states as it moves forward with the regional economic integration.

“Our main goal is to contribute to the larger goal of integrating the region’s national economies and achieve higher levels of economic dynamism and competitiveness,” he said.

Lu said they are set to meet with other members of the ASF to explore and discuss further cooperation strategies during the 17th National Tuna Congress that will formally open on Thursday afternoon at the SM Trade Halls here.

The two-day congress, which is the country’s biggest gathering of tuna industry stakeholders, is focused on the theme: “Regional Cooperation: the Way Forward.”

Lu said they have invited top industry experts to shed light on the opportunities, issues and challenges facing the fishing industry in line with the ASEAN economic integration.

He said their main focus is to continue to support, collaborate and participate in initiatives aimed at attaining better cooperation among regional fishing players, seafood processors and exporters.

“We will exchange views with our regional partners on matters of mutual interest such as access to better technology, food safety assurance, supply sustainability, greater market opportunities, and environment and social responsibility,” he said.

Meantime, Ma. Rosanna Bernadette Contreras, SFFAII executive director, said around 600 local and foreign tuna industry players are joining this year’s National Tuna Congress.

The foreign delegates include top fishery experts and officials from Vietnam, Palau, Papua New, United States, Indonesia and Thailand.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was invited as keynote speaker during the ceremony but he will be represented by Undersecretary for Fisheries and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Asis Perez.

Keith Bigelow, fisheries scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will discuss their initiatives in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated or IUU fishing while Renerio Acosta, economic advisor of the United States Agency for International Development regional development mission for Asia, will tackle oceans and fisheries patrtnerships.

Dr. Somboon Siriraksophon and Sukchai Arnupapboon, of the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center, will present fisheries conservation and management concerns in the ASEAN.

A fishery official from Vietnam will showcase the developments in its tuna industry as well as present issues and concerns.