Tuna fishing ban up for review in Manila

Edwin Espejo
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission starts its 5-day meeting in Manila to review a tuna fishing ban that has a bearing on the country's tuna capital

TUNA CAPITAL. The results of the 5-day meet are being anticipated even by members of the tuna industry in General Santos City, the country's tuna capital. Photo by Edwin Espejo

MANILA, Philippines – The search for conservation measures is high on the list of the 9th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) which opened its annual meeting Saturday, December 1, at the Philippine International Convention Center.

The 5-day meeting will also review the ongoing ban on tuna fishing in 4 pockets of high seas in the Western Pacific region, and will look at possible replacement measures.

In 2008, the 25-country fisheries commission imposed a limited ban on tuna fishing beginning that year — after a steady decline in tuna catch records raised alarms in the highly lucrative and competitive world tuna fishing industry.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Commission.

Fishing ban

In 2009, the WCPFC expanded its conservation measure that included a two-year closure of 4 pockets of high seas in the Pacific Ocean that lie in the path of the highly-migratory tuna and tuna-like species.

The ban took effect the following year but was extended during the belated March 2012 meeting of the Commission.

The WCPFC however granted Philippine tuna fishing vessels exclusive privileges to resume fishing in Pocket 1 after a strong lobby from the Philippine delegation led by Mindanao Development Authority Lualhati Antonino and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez in Guam early this year.

Pocket 1 is an area of about 590,000 square kilometers north of Papua New Guinea and east of southern Indonesia.

The exemption however is limited to 36 Filipino fishing fleets with gross tonnage not exceeding 250 tons of traditional fresh/ice chilled catching vessels.

But as of this writing, only 8 of 36 fishing that were allowed to fish in the area have set sail to the area.

Leading tuna catcher

A source from the Philippine tuna industry based in General Santos City said the rest are eagerly awaiting the result of this week’s WCPFC meeting and want to know if the Philippines will keep its exempt status.

The Philippines is one of the world’s leading tuna catchers as well as producers of canned and processed tuna products.

General Santos City, the country’s acknowledged tuna capital, is home to 6 of the Philippines’ tuna canning plant.

The tuna industry in General Santos City is generating more than US$250 million in export revenues making it the single biggest source of employment and livelihood in the southern port city.

Industry sources said more than 120,000 residents are directly and indirectly dependent on tuna production.

The WCPFC meeting is expected to draw delegates from the Commission’s member countries that also include Australia, China, Canada, the Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu.

Aside from its member-countries, the WCPFC also includes participating territories from American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna.

The Commission also has Belize, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Indonesia, Mexico, Senegal, St Kitts and Nevis, Panama, Thailand, and Vietnam as cooperating non-member countries. – Rappler.com

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