BFAR sets tuna catch ceiling

Edwin G. Espejo

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This is one of several measures the agency is proposing to arrest the dwindling supply of tuna in the country

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is imposing an annual ceiling for tuna catch in the country to arrest dwindling supply of the high-value fish.

BFAR has set an annual ceiling of 165,000 metric tons, the same volume of tuna landings by Filipino vessels throughout the country in 2011.

To meet the ceiling, BFAR is proposing a 30% reduction in the catch in 9 of 12 traditional fishing grounds in the country, and reduction in the number of operating fishing vessels as well as the number of fishing days.

Last year, no less than President Aquino warned of declining tuna catch in the Philippines due to overfishing and the effects of global warming.

The Philippines is among the world’s top 10 tuna producers, with GenSan as the hub of the industry.

Records obtained from the GenSan Fish Port Complex showed that fish landings in the city last year totaled 112,890.82 metric tons, of which majority were tuna or tuna-like species. The figure included 85.95 metric tons of frozen tuna imported from abroad and shipped from Manila.

BFAR Assistant Director Benjamin Tabios said he agrees with tuna fishing magnate Marfenio Tan that majority of 162 purse seine tuna catchers in the city must be decommissioned to keep the industry afloat.

“(The assessment) is fairly correct that there must be a reduction of fishing fleet but there should also be proportionate reduction in gross catch,” Tabios said in an open forum organized by Greenpeace on Thursday, July 19.

Tan, who is former Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries president, believes reducing the tuna fishing vessels from 162 to 50 will help sustain the industry. 

Tabios, meanwhile, said that the tuna food chain must also be managed to help replenish stocks. He said a 3-month ban on sardine fishing early this year helped improve tuna catch in municipal waters. Sardines (tamban or white sardinella) are the natural prey of skipjacks and tuna.

He encouraged fishing companies to tap other “frontier areas” for tuna fishing like the vast Pacific Ocean. –

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