To strengthen ties in the areas of fisheries, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Monday approved the creation of a joint committee on fisheries and subsidiary arrangement on specific areas of cooperation.
BFAR Director Asis Perez said that the bilateral fisheries cooperation between the Philippines and PNG primarily reflects the commitment of both countries for managing highly migratory fish stocks, as well as the traceability of fish produce to ensure that catch does not come from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
“Exchange of data, information, and experts between respective competent authorities; fisheries trade and promotion; and joint research activities are among the areas known for mutually beneficial cooperation stated in the subsidiary arrangement,” he said.
“What we aim to achieve and engrave from this initiative is more than alliance in commerce, trade, investment, research and technical cooperation in the field of fisheries, but more importantly a strengthened advocacy against IUU fishing to attain sustainable development of fisheries,” Perez added.
Both parties during the meeting expressed hope that strengthening their ties would not only im- prove economic engagements, but also undertakings on sustain-able fisheries management and development.
Lawyer Benjamin Tabios, assistant director of the BFAR, said that the approval of the bilateral fisheries agreement is part of the memorandum of understanding for cooperation forged in 2009.
“What happened in 2009 is the broad agreement of the fisheries. What just happened now is the detailed enforcement of monitoring control and surveillance functions of a responsible fishing nations such as the Philippines,” said Tabios.
As a flag state, the official said that the Philippines has an obligation and commitments under the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission—particularly in the conservation and management measures of fish stocks.
The agreement will also ensure that the Philippines will abide by the code of conduct for responsible fisheries as stated by the United Nation’s Food, Agriculture Organization.
To recall, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a regional fisheries management organization that addresses problems in the management of high seas fisheries, closed four high seas pockets from tuna fishing for two years beginning 2009 in response to the growing alarm over declining tuna catches.
High Seas Pocket 1
In April 2012, the WCPFC supported the “Philippine Conservation and Management Proposal,” which allows fishing of 36 group seines in the area between Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, also known as High Seas Pocket 1.
This measure allowed the Philippines to fish until March of 2013.
The same support was granted by the Commission in December of 2012, convinced that the country adheres to responsible fishing operations, thereby extending the right of the Philippines to fish in the area until June 30, 2013.
Another fishing ban was imposed from July 1 to October 30 this year due to the Fish Aggregating Device Closure. The Philippines, however, gets new access in the High Seas Pocket 1 as the fishing season opens on November 1.
By December 2013, the Philippines will again present its case before the WCPFC to request for continuous access in the High Seas Pocket 1 on the year 2014 and beyond.
“If granted, this would still come with the commission’s strict imposition of regulations for the Philippine fishing vessels in the area which has become a known fishing ground for tuna fishers,” Perez said.
The multi-national WCPFC establishes measures to ensure long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks like tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
As the commission convenes its 10th regular session in December, new or enhanced measures are expected to replace interim conservation measures currently being implemented.