BFAR’s Tuna Management Plan (1st of two parts)

BY BELINDA SALES CANLAS

THE BUREAU of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) launched in 2018 the National Tuna Management Plan (NTMP). What is the NTMP all about? Will it benefit our ocean resources? Our Filipino fishers? Our population? Does it have an impact on our lives? These are interesting questions and beg meaningful answers.

According to BFAR, the NTMP is aimed at establishing a sustainably-managed and equitably-allocated Tuna fisheries by 2026 that will promote responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products. By now, I think we can all agree that responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products will help ensure continuous provision of gainful livelihood and substantial income to Tuna fishers while providing growth opportunities to associated business, and most importantly, food security for the growing population of the country. That is what the plan envisions.

In the plan, BFAR says that as one of the major Tuna-fishing nations, the Philippines should be able to balance its need for growth and development (which drives its increasing Tuna fishing requirements) against the need for sustainability (which requires it to engage in internal cooperative arrangements in managing Tunas and other highly migratory and transboundary fish stocks). Balance is always the key. You don’t keep the balance, something’s bound to keel over. It’s not only applicable to the fishing sector, even to agriculture, the environment like preservation of trees versus road widening, among others.  

Data from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) show that in 2017, 55 percent of the world’s Tuna catch totalled 2.6 million MT. 80-85 percent of the WCPFC catches were derived from Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs); 30 percent from West Pacific East Asia; and 10 percent from the Philippines. Given these statistics, there is a need for transnational fishery cooperation. Big word. What’s transnational fishery cooperation? It is plainly implementing increased joint management measures designed to protect the Tuna and other Tuna-like and migratory resources across various countries. That’s right across various countries for Tuna fishing has already gone global. It’s no longer confined to Philippine municipal waters and the EEZ. This cooperation is played out even within Philippines waters as evidenced by the high degree of inter-dependence among its Tuna fisheries, the plan further explained.

The WCPFC covers the following countries: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu, Members; American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, Participating Territories; and Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Liberia, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cooperating Non-Members.

The plan further stated that increasing catch levels in Western and Central Pacific Ocean have led the WCPFC to adopt, for implementation by member-countries, the Philippine included, a growing number of Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs). It applies to the catching, processing, and marketing of Skipjack, Yellowfin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Albacore Tuna, and Pacific Bluefin Tuna. It covers both municipal and commercial fishing employing purse seine, ring net, long line, handline (hook and line), and other fishing methods and gears that are operated in Philippine waters including the EEZ. Likewise, it covers certain operations of Philippine-flagged vessels fishing beyond national jurisdictions (high seas and/or jurisdiction of other coastal states).

According to the plan, Tuna fishing in the Philippines involves both municipal (<3 GT) and commercial (>3 GT) fishing vessels. Municipal handline, troll line, and gill net, among others, are used to catch oceanic Tunas. Small-scale and medium-scale commercial vessels (3.1-150 GT) like the purse seine, ring net, and handline are the primary fishing boats which fish beyond municipal waters and the EEZ. Philippine-flagged purse seine/ring vessels (not more than 250 GT), currently limited to 36 Tuna catchers, operate in High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP1) in consonance with WCPFC policy.

Now, what is the coverage of HSP1? Why is this a big thing in Tuna fishing? HSP1 or the high seas is bounded by the EEZs of the Federated States of Micronesia to the north and east, Republic of Palau to the west, and Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to the south. Our Filipino fishers are allowed to fish in this area subject to CMMs issued by the WCPFC.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

There was almost nothing to see in General Santos City in the 1970s, but even during that sparse era, the city has always been blessed by the sea’s bounty. – Rosalita T. Nuñez.

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For comments, you may reach the writer at [email protected]./PN

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