Tuna catches landed at port. (Photo: FA-Archive)
Tuna catches dwindle
Monday, September 05, 2011, 01:50 (GMT + 9)
Overfishing and the effects of global warming are leaving the Philippines with diminished tuna landings, President Benigno Aquino has warned. And he assured that the government backs fishers’ calls to reopen fishing in the Pacific high seas, whose closure has contributed to the decline in fisheries production in 2010 and H1 2011.
Tuna species like skipjack, yellowfin, and frigate bullet sustain the livelihoods of thousands of fishers and major canneries in the south of the country. The sector is responsible for 12 per cent of the country’s total fish production and gives work to some 120,000 people.
The Philippines is one of the world’s top 10 tuna producers, with annual exports standing at about USD 280 million.
“In recent years, the industry has suffered dwindling catches due to overfishing; and this has been further compounded by the existing ban by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) on all fishing operations in the high seas pockets 1 and 2,” Aquino said, Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in its August report that the tuna industry in the Philippines is falling victim to high production and raw material costs.
“As a result, canned tuna production in General Santos City is diminishing rapidly. Some fear it will disappear altogether,” the report reads.
Extreme weather and high gas prices led to a 15 per cent drop in commercial fishing during the first semester of 2011, the Department of Agriculture communicated.
Canneries in General Santos City are operating below their full capacity, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said.
In terms of climate change, warming and rising sea levels both, scientists have warned, may mess with the migration of fish species.
“Over the long term, we will also have to confront the potentially catastrophic impact of climate on tuna production.
Experts warn that increasing surface ocean temperatures may change the frequency and duration of El Niño cycles and may affect fish migration patterns. These changes may lower overall productivity and alter the spatial distribution of tuna stocks in the long run,” Aquino recognised.
Fuel and oil prices make up half of the industry’s operating costs, and prices are escalating. Aquino said the government is considering giving small local fishers fuel subsidies.
The Philippine Government, Aquino said, is committed to keeping the tuna industry going. Officials have asked the Agriculture Department to come up with bilateral agreements to expand fishing grounds with neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Palau, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the government will "continuously push for the reopening of that portion of the high seas [in the Pacific]." At least, he said, officials will try to secure special treatment for small and medium ring-netters and purse seiners or deep-sea fishing nets, GMA News reports.
In addition, Aquino urged the tuna industry to upgrade its methods and facilities and to abide by international standards and sustainable fishing methods if it wishes to penetrate the European market.
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By Natalia Real