The Philippines’ total tuna catch could drop by as much as 10 percent following a two-year ban on fishing in the international waters within the Western Pacific region, according to industry sources.
Marfenio Tan, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industry (SFFAI), said the ban imposed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Conference (WCPFC) covers all 25-member countries of the association and at least 10 observer countries.
The ban takes effect starting January this year.
The ban however excludes fishing within the 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of countries within the region.
It also excludes long line and handline tuna fishing provided fishing vessels using this method must have observers on board and must subscribe to the vessel monitoring system (VMS).
The ban virtually prohibits purse seine fishing and use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) in two major pockets of international waters south of the western pacific region and almost the whole area of the northern Pacific.
The areas covered by the ban are traditional fishing grounds of Filipino tuna fishers.
WCPFC imposed the two-year ban following scientific studies and statistics pointing to the decline of tuna fish stocks in the region.
“WCPFC found the three-month ban last year as ineffective that is why it decided to lengthen the ban,” Tan said in a recent interview.
He said the move was to allow highly migratory yellowfin and bigeye tuna recover from state of over fishing.
Tuna production is a major industry in the southcentral region of Mindanao.
An average of 400,000 metric tons of various tuna specie is being landed at the General Santos City Fishing port complex every year generating US$280 million in annual export revenues.
Tan said they expect some of the country’s 200 or so mother fishing boats to be competing against each other in the already crowded Philippine waters covered by its EEZ.
He called on the national government as well as local government units in the region to prepare for expected job losses and alternative livelihood for fisherfolks who will be dislocated by the WCPFC ban.
General Santos hosts six of the country’s seven tuna canning plants.
The tuna industry directly hires some 25,000 workers with over 100,000 more dependent on ancillary business of the industry.
Revenues generated from the industry accounts for 60 percent of the local economy of General Santos.