Mark Dia, regional oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia said the Philippine government should secure the livelihood of its fisherfolk constituents by ensuring the sustainability in our seas.”
"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," he told media at a Saturday’s press briefing here stressing that with appropriate measures in place the tuna fisheries can continue.
The press briefing was held in time with the celebration of the General Santos City’s 15th Tuna Festival and 45th Charter Anniversary.
Greenpeace said the livelihood of the fisherfolk in the country especially the sustainable tuna fishing is being threatened by overfishing, which results in fish stock dwindling.
Backed by General Santos City Alliance of Tuna Handliners, spokesperson Raul Gonzales echoed Greenpeace’s stance about the present condition of the country’s fishing business saying the “unsustainable fishing practices” jeopardize the future of the entire industry.
“Our livelihoods are already threatened,” he underscored.
Gonzales lamented that with the current situation “the hook and line tuna industry is being sacrificed for canned tuna” calling on big tuna catchers like large-scale purse seiners to avoid catching juvenile or baby tuna and not overdo their catch.
According to him, the government must “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.”
He said that because of the high demand in purse seine fishing, the longline and handline tuna industry are very much affected by the effect of decreasing fish stocks.
In General Santos City, Tuna stocks, Gonzales affirmed, are getting smaller and harder to come by much more get caught.
But Dia said the problem lies in the methods of fishing with purse seine as it uses the Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD) that catch without exception even juvenile tuna. This, he explained is the reason for the decline in fish stocks.
Greenpeace cited that there are four main tuna species, namely, skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore.
Of these four, bigeye tuna is in need of “urgent management action” as it is experiencing overfishing while the yellowfin stock is fully exploited and is currently in declines.
Dia said that unless appropriate measure is taken and adopted, there will be a continuous massive decline in fish stocks which will leave fishermen in the country with no livelihood at all.
Technically, Dia further explained that a yellowfin tuna will need at least two years to mature and reach 107 cm while the bigeye tuna needs also same years to reach 100 cm.
With this then, he reiterated that “FAD use with purse seine is simply unsustainable and needs to be restricted/managed and ultimately banned across the region urgently.”
Meanwhile, Sari Tolvanen, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace International said that “strong action to stop overfishing and overcapacity in the fleets,” is what really at stake at this time.
She stressed that a “precautionary approach” must be adopted immediately to address the problem “before it is too late.”
“Fishing companies as well as coastal communities will suffer huge losses as the stocks decline and fleets will be forced to move elsewhere,” she articulated.
Dia also said that instead of continuously trying to seek exceptions to conservation measures and pursue new fishing grounds to increase tuna catches, the government should redirect its effort to support the tuna industry by improving existing fishing methods and propping up the sustainable ones in catching tuna.
Greenpeace urged government then to “do its share in tuna conservation this December at the WCPFC meeting and not negotiate short sighted exemptions on reducing FAD use.”
WCPFC stands for Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international fisheries agreement that “seeks to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks (tunas, billfish, marlin) in the western and central Pacific Ocean.”
The commission specifically addresses “the problems in the management of high seas fisheries resulting from unregulated fishing, over-capitalization, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases and insufficient multilateral cooperation in respect to conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks.”