Science and environment groups disappointed with Tuna Management Plan

At the start of the 18th Tuna Congress held in General Santos City, Greenpeace Philippines, WWF Philippines and the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, together with concerned fisheries organisations, called for a viable Tuna Management Plan that will truly serve the purpose of fish stocks recovery, particularly yellowfin, bigeye tuna, and skipjack, and called on the tuna industry to reform ‘at every step in the supply chain from sea to plate.’

“The proposed Tuna Management Plan that was presented to us is a disappointment,” said Dr. Jose Ingles, WWF Fisheries Consultant. “The Draft 2017 National Tuna Management, Plan which is devoid of science-based provisions, should cover both Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and High Seas Fishing Grounds, as required by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) [1].”

According to the group, the Philippines’ Tuna Management Plan to be presented at the 18th Tuna Congress, falls short of concrete management measures, among them fishing effort regulation, compliance to Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) Closure, and limiting juvenile tuna catches to allow tuna stocks to recover.

“While we agree with the plan’s aspirational statement for ‘a sustainably-managed and equitably used tuna fisheries, which promotes responsible fishing practices and trade of tuna products leading towards the development of the Philippine tuna industry’, elements of the plan nonetheless promote overfishing and do not support the aspirational goal that will allow tuna resources to recover to 1980s levels,” Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, pointed out.

Raul Gonzalez of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners called the proposed Tuna Management Plan a ‘purse-seine industry plan’ as it is heavily influenced by major stakeholders of the purse seine fishing fleet. “The plan should contain clear steps and concrete actions to avoid the huge opportunity losses associated with catching juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Should this succeed, it will mean a flourishing tuna handline fisheries where the small-scale fishers will greatly benefit. We also would like to solicit inputs from our fellow congress participants on how to address the issues of the continued landing of juvenile yellowfin tuna at the General Santos City fish port complex,” Gonzales said.

A recent tuna stocks assessment in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean showed that only 16 per cent of the Spawning Stocks Biomass (SSB) of bigeye tuna are remaining, while yellowfin tuna is pegged at 38 per cent [2]. Most of the juvenile yellowfin tuna that are smaller than 50cm are caught by Philippine and Indonesian fleets. [3]

In the Indian Ocean, where the Philippine Tuna Industry plans to expand its fleets, yellowfin tuna stocks are already overfished at 94 per cent. [4]

“The Global tuna stocks scenario is a reminder to the industry about the importance of prioritizing conservation measures within the Western Central and Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPF) and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) by immediately regulating the number of fishing vessels and Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), to allow tuna stocks to recover,” Ingles added.

In a bid to save tuna from disappearing, Greenpeace Philippines last week met with members of the Tuna Canners Association of General Santos to discuss the upcoming Tuna Cannery Ranking. Greenpeace pointed out that canneries are crucial to solving the problem of overfishing. In its previous cannery ranking report, [5] none of the canneries passed with a grade higher than 70  per cent.

“The rest of the industry can take a cue from the canneries who will also play a crucial role to save our tuna. If canneries set strict rules on traceability, sustainability, and measures to take care of fishworkers onboard fishing boats, a fair and vibrant tuna fishing industry is possible, and we are happy that they are taking steps to address the issues identified in our ranking,” Greenpeace’s Cinches said. “Viable solutions are available. The industry and the government should open up the process more towards bringing in expertise to address the problem of tuna overfishing that can cause industry collapse, food insecurity and widespread poverty,” Cinches added.


Notes to the Editor:

[1] Conservation and Management Measure for bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Conservation and Management Measure 2015 -01 Para. 47 s. 2015

[2] Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Scientific Committee. Regular Session (10th : 2014: Majuro, Marshall Islands). Tenth regular session, Majuro, Marshall Islands, 6-14 August 2014 : summary report. — Majuro, Marshall Islands: Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, 2014. Table BET3 and Table YFT3.

[3] Graham Pilling, Robert Scott, Peter Williams and John Hampton. 2016. A compendium of fisheries indicators for tuna stocks not assessed in 2016 (bigeye and yellowfin tuna). WCPFC-SC12-2016/SA-WP-03

[4] Status summary for species of tuna and tuna-like species under the IOTC mandate, as well as other species impacted by IOTC fisheries

[5] Greenpeace. 2015. Tuna Cannery Ranking. Indonesia and Philippines.

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