BFAR to establish more tuna conservation zones

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 7 Sept) – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is planning to establish next year additional Tuna Conservation and Management Zones (TCMZ) in tuna fishing grounds within the country’s territorial waters.

Rafael Ramiscal, chief of BFAR’s capture fisheries division, said Thursday they are working on the expansion of the project in five fishing grounds in the country’s eastern and western seaboard.

He said it will take off from the pilot TCMZ that was launched last April in identified “small tuna hotspots” off the Celebes Sea in Sarangani Province.

The establishment of the tuna conservation zone, which is a “national priority project” of the Department of Agriculture and BFAR, was provided for in Fisheries Administrative Order No. 258.

It mainly aims to provide exclusive fishing zones for tuna handline fishermen in designated areas, promote the conservation and management of offshores tuna through the reduction of catches of juvenile species and provide livelihood to small-scale fishermen.

Ramiscal said they initially deployed last July at least 15 fish aggregating devices (FADs) or “payaos” in two of the seven identified cluster sites within the TCMZ at the Celebes Sea.

The pilot area, which was set about 20 to 25 kilometers from the coastal barangays, covers a total of 272,160 hectares or 38,800 hectares per cluster.

The FADs, which were worth P200,000 to P300,000 each, were provided by the agency to the Alliance of Tuna Handliners (ATH) through a memorandum of agreement, he said.

Ramiscal said ATH, whose members are based in this city and the six coastal towns of Sarangani, was tasked to manage, maintain and protect the FADs.

“We’re deploying a total 70 FADs or 10 each for the seven clusters,” Ramiscal said at the sidelines of the 20th National Tuna Congress here.

Under the program, he said only small hook and line or handline fishermen are allowed to operate within the established TCMZ.

He said the use of any type of fish net is prohibited to protect the juvenile tuna and other small fishes.

But Ramiscal said some of the FADs deployed last July off the towns of Kiamba and Glan in Sarangani and Balut Island were damaged due to unfavorable weather conditions and strong sea current.

He said they are currently improving the design and components of the other FADs to make them more durable.

“We’re drawing lessons from the pilot TCMZ and these will be considered before its rollout to other areas,” added. (MindaNews)