“The government should ensure sustainability in our seas so that tuna fisheries can continue, securing the livelihood of millions of fisherfolk,” said Mark Dia, Regional Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Speaking at the 15th Tuna Congress currently happening in the country’s tuna capital, Dia said that “instead of pursuing ever-increasing tuna catches and opening up new fishing grounds, the Philippine government needs to direct its support to shift the tuna industry and prop up existing sustainable methods in catching tuna.”
Scientists have long called for further protection of the region’s valuable bigeye and yellow fin tuna stocks. Unless measures are taken, such as reducing the catches of juvenile tuna caught by using purse seine nets with fish aggregation devices (FAD) the stocks will continue to drop (1).
Bigeye and yellowfin tuna need at least two to three years to grow to maturity, so if most of the catch is juvenile tuna, fish stocks will not be able to replenish themselves. The decline in these fish stocks is already hurting longline and handline fleets. Evidence of this is already clear in the traditional tuna fishing areas south of Mindanao where tuna is getting smaller and harder to catch.
“Without strong action to stop overfishing and overcapacity in the fleets, which means that there are already many boats catching fish, fishing companies as well as coastal communities will suffer huge losses as the stocks declineand fleets will be forced to move elsewhere,” said Sari Tolvanen, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace International.
Tolvanen added, “a precautionary approach must be taken now, before it is too late. The problem is that efforts at fisheries management have fallen short of what is required.”
The Alliance of Tuna Handliners echoed Greenpeace’s concern about current unsustainable fishing practices that jeopardize the future of the industry. “Our livelihoods are already threatened. The hook and line tuna industry is being sacrificed for canned tuna,” said Raul Gonzales, spokesperson for the group.
“Therefore, we ask that the government act now to ensure that juvenile tuna catches in the purse seine fisheries are reduced. Urgent reduction in excess purse seine fishing capacity must also be implemented.”
The problem of big eye tuna overfishing were discussed at the recently concluded Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission workshop (WCPFC) held in Japan, of which the Philippines is a member. A proposal to extend the FAD ban in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean from the current 4 months to at least 5 months has been broadly agreed, but the Philippines has said that it wants to be exempted from having to further restrict FAD use.
“Instead of continuously trying to seek exceptions to conservation measures, the Philippines should instead work more closely with the rest of the Pacific region and help put in place strong science based management measures that can help stop overfishing,” stressed Dia.
Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.