Philippines seeks lifting of tuna fishing ban in Pacific high seas
The Philippine government has announced it will campaign for the reopening of the high seas in the Pacific for commercial fishing, saying that certain tuna species, particularly the yellowfin common to Philippine waters, are not overfished.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the Philippines would send a team to press for the resumption of fishing activities in Western Pacific at the meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in December in Palau.
The WCPFC imposed a fishing ban in the Pacific high seas, one of the major fishing grounds in the world, in January 2008 to allow tuna species and other marine life to spawn and increase their population. The ban is expected to end later this year.
Last year, the Philippines, at the WCPFC meeting in Hawaii, called for the establishment of a Special Management Area in High Seas Pocket 1 where Filipino fresh and ice-chilled fishing vessels may be allowed.
According to Alcala, the closure of the high seas had greatly contributed to the decline of the country’s tuna industry.
The tuna industry’s production volume last year declined by 9 percent from the 2008 level, industry data said.
Figures also noted that commercial fisheries, which account for 70 percent of the total volume at 271,625 metric tons, also posted a decline of 13.84 percent.
Tuna exports in 2010 was valued at $359.38 million, around 70 percent of which were canned, while the remaining 30 percent were fresh, chilled, or frozen.
Canned tuna exports dropped by 8.14 percent compared to 2009 figures, data also showed.
In a previous interview, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Asis Perez said it was possible that the fishing ban would continue to be pursued but that the Philippines would oppose an extension.
He noted that the bureau had sent two scientists to attend the 7th Regular Session of the WCPFC Scientific Committee last month. He noted that the Scientific Committee, or SC, concluded that tuna, specifically the yellowfin species was not experiencing overfishing.
However, the SC recommended that there should be no increase in fishing efforts in the western equatorial region.
The most common tuna species in the country are yellowfin, skipjack, and frigate tunas.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.