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Philippine Vessels Allowed Access to Areas in Pacific Fishing Grounds

Sustainability Politics +2 more

PHILIPPINES - Philippine fishing vessels have been authorized to fish in the seas of Pacific Ocean, the Mindanao Development Authority said.

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In a press release, MinDA chair Secretary Luwalhati Antonino said the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has lifted the fishing ban on pockets 1 and 2 of the Pacific Ocean.

"Thirty-six Philippine fishing vessels are given limited access to fishing in pockets 1 and 2 of the high seas until February 2013, Ms Antonino said.

Ms Antonino, who was the head of the Philippine delegation to the eight annual meeting of the WCPFC in Guam last 26 to 30 March, said the lifting of the ban can greatly benefit the countrys fishing industry, especially in Mindanao.

She, however, pointed out that while the country is granted access, efforts must also be exerted to prevent abuse.

WCPFC banned commercial fishing in Pockets 1 and 2 of the high seas with the issuance of Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) in 2008 to mitigate overfishing of big-eye and yellow-fin tuna and to limit the growth of fishing capacity in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

Pocket 1 covers Palau, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, areas closest to the Philippines where local tuna fishing companies frequently operate.

Pocket 2 is bounded by the countries of Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and parts of Kiribati.

These areas reportedly contribute 60 per cent of the worlds tuna production.

The two-year fishing ban took was effective 1 January, 2010 until 31 December, 2011.

The Philippines is among the 25 member countries of WCPFC, which regulates migratory fish stocks such as big-eye and yellow-fin tuna in the Pacific.

Although the lifting of the ban is a huge success, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) stressed that Filipino fishing vessels must adhere to the fishing standards being imposed by the international commission.

We must live up to the expectations of WCPFC, BFAR Director Asis Perez said.

He added that the Philippines must satisfactorily comply with the provisions of the CMM if we want to continue fishing in pockets 1 and 2 beyond 2013.

With this new development, the SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Incorporated (SFFAII) is optimistic that the tuna industry shall continue to contribute significant gains to Mindanaos economy.

Tuna remains as one of the top exports of Mindanao with a combined (fresh and frozen) Freight on Board (FOB) value amounting to US$311-million in 2010. During the same year, the total tuna industry is valued at Php23-billion.

Moreover, the industry employs at least 100,000 people ranging from fishing to canning, processing and other auxiliary services.

The United States, European Union, and Japan are among the top export destinations of tuna according to Ms Antonino.

"It is encouraging to note that despite the global economic challenges, Mindanao trade has remained bullish, Ms Antonino said.

She added that the Aquino administration recognises the challenges being faced by the fishing industry that is why MinDA shall continue to lobby for necessary measures and policy recommendations in order to spur and strengthen Mindanaos economy and to generate jobs for Mindanawons.

These [challenges] must not stall us from pursuing our vision of growth and expansion to serve the growing domestic and global demands. This calls for us to creatively find ways to boost the [tuna] industry, said Ms Antonino.

Records indicated that with the fishing ban, tuna production last year dropped to 503,000 metric tons last year as compared to 575,000 MT in 2010.

Director Perez, explained access of the Philippine fishing vessels will only be limited to traditional fresh and ice chilled fishing vessels operating as a group.