MANILA, Philippines – The governing body that oversees migratory fish stocks in the Pacific does not expect a significant spike in Philippine tuna catch following a December decision to lift the fishing ban on two pockets of seas in the ocean.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) lifted the two-year fishing ban on pockets 1 and 2 of Pacific, but maintained that entry of vessels to the marine reserves would be limited.
“The Philippines can fish in high sea pocket 1 only and any reporting in the press otherwise is wrong,” clarified Glenn Hurry, executive director of WCPFC.
The Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources earlier said local companies were expecting to yield 90,000 metric tons (MT) of tuna with the lifting of the ban on the two pockets.
But while pocket 1 is open to Philippine vessels, pocket 2 remains closed to them, Hurry said.
Likewise, only 36 traditional Philippine fishing vessels have been allowed to enter the area and will be required to be on the WCPFC’s monitoring system. The WCPFC said freezer tuna boats or large purse seiners remain banned in both pockets of seas.
Pocket 1 is bounded by the island nations of Palau, Papa New Guinea, Micronesia and Indonesia. Pocket 2, on the other hand, is surrounded by the countries of Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and parts of Kiribati, a tuna fishing ground which is much more distant from the Philippines and beyond the reach of medium-size Philippine purse seiners.
“We’ll get a better idea after six months of fishing to see what comes out of there (pocket 1), but I’m not expecting it to be high,” Hurry said.
The WCPFC is an 18-member organization that regulates fish stocks such as tuna and marlin in the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines is a member, along with other top tuna harvesters like Japan.
The WCPFC implemented the two-year ban on the two pockets of seas due to declining stocks.
Hurry said the lifting of the ban on pocket 1 covers only the Philippines. He said the WCPFC will again meet in Manila in December to assess the impact of the new policy that gave preferential treatment to Philippine tuna fishers.
Several Philippine fishing companies, including RD Fishing and Frabelle Fishing, however have already established base in Palau and Papua New Guinea and are expected to take advantage of the preferential treatment from WCPFC.
The Philippines has been lobbying for the lifting of the WCPFC ban arguing that it has dislocated hundreds of fishermen and workers dependent on its tuna industry. It even cited the slaying of 15 fishermen off the coast of Basilan in southern Philippines in January due to rivalry over narrowing fishing grounds as a result of the ban.
In 2011, the second year of the ban, total tuna landing at the General Santos City fishing port complex dropped by 21% to 112,891.81 MT from 143,139.17 MT in 2010.
Volume of landings of mature yellowfin tuna has also been on a steady decline from 33,369 MT in 2007 to 9,061.13 last year. – Rappler.com