BFAR’s Tuna Management Plan (2nd of two parts)

THERE are 455 commercial fish landing centers in the country. These include the Philippine Fisheries and Development Authority and local government unit-controlled ports, as well as private wharves.

The General Santos Fish Port Complex is the country’s major tuna unloading port, where 189,944.2 metric tons (MT) of tuna were unloaded in 2017.

The Navotas Fish Port Complex in Metro Manila is the country’s second largest tuna port, where 6,821.56 MT of tuna were unloaded in 2017, the plan further reported.

BFAR targets to put up 729 community fish landing centers nationwide. This is a good plan because the construction of such will provide a proper and hygienic hub for the fishermen to land their catch; serve as a monitoring site; a training ground for the fisherfolk; and, in part (via its roof deck), as facility for sun drying and smoking of fish during peak months. Now, 411 units are already completed and 89 are operational, as of May 2018. Of course, we are pushing BFAR to complete the target number and make them all operational to benefit the fisherfolk.

Moving forward, seven out of nine tuna canneries in the country with a combined capacity to process raw tuna at 950 tons per day or about 189,000-216,000 tons annually, are located in General Santos City. With annual fresh tuna landing of 90,000 tons (average for the last three years) coming from Philippine fishing grounds and the HSP1, the tuna canning industry plays a very crucial role as a big and sustainable market for the tuna fishing industry. This information is derived from “Tuna: At the Heart of General Santos” coffee table book, published in September 2018.

Moreover, 90 percent of the national tuna production is located in Mindanao, providing jobs and annual direct revenues of $400 million. General Santos City, as the center of the tuna industry, hosts 15 of the 19 fish processors and exporters of the country. With all these data, we can safely say that indeed, General Santos City has rightfully earned the moniker, “Tuna Capital of the Philippines”.

The plan covered issues related to tuna fisheries. Inputs from the 18th National Tuna Congress in 2016 and the regional cluster consultations conducted in 2017 and 2018, respectively, are incorporated, thus:

a) Sustainability of Tuna Resources – Current indicators of oceanic Tuna Species (Skipjack, Yellowfin Tuna, and Bigeye Tuna) provide optimism on improved resources in the Western Central Pacific Ocean or WCPO. However, uncertainties and risks accompany Bigeye Tuna. Increasing catch and fishing mortality on key Tuna species require careful management.

b) Resource Use conflict (between commercial and municipal fisheries) – Competition between the various fisheries and sectors has caused issues on equitable distribution of fishing access. An example is the use of payao by commercial purse seine and ring net vessels resulting in handliners moving farther away and eventually losing fishing ground in the municipal waters.

c) Limited post-harvest facilities resulting in high post-harvest losses

d) Limited socio-economic benefits and alternative livelihood opportunities to tuna fishers

e) Limited market and stringent trade/market/credit requirements (including EU and US market standards).

f) Need to strengthen governance on tuna fisheries management.

g) Illegal unreported unregulated or IUU fishing.

All these crucial issues need to be addressed and resolved, and BFAR, being the fisheries authority of the country, mainly responsible for commercial fishing in national waters and the EEZ, and managing the high seas/distant water tuna fishing fleet, is the rightful government office to push for the resolution of these issues in partnership with stakeholders and the industry.

Meanwhile, the LGUs are authorized to manage fishing and fishing activities in municipal waters. They can adopt regulations for the conservation, management, and exploitation of tuna in municipal waters.

For more information about the specific Goals and Objectives of the plan, you can contact BFAR, Capture Fisheries Division through Tel. No. (02) 9294894 or visit their website at http://www.bfar.da.gov.ph/.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

General Santos City is blessed with the enormous bounty of the sea. Not only that, it is richly rewarded by hosting a growing Tuna Industry whose evolution from simple family-based banca operations to the present highly-sophisticated fleet operations, have enabled the industry to drive the economy of the city by generating employment, encouraging entrepreneurial ventures, improving the lives of the fishermen and their families, and bringing international attention to this southernmost city of the county. – Tuna: At the Heart of General Santos coffee table book

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

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