Environment solutions provider World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is now working to secure certification for Philippine tuna fisheries by next year to promote sustainable fishing and fair trade prices.
Joann Binondo, project manager of WWF-Philippines Partnership Program Toward Sustainable Tuna (PPTST), said they expect to receive accreditation from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 2016 for two yellowfin tuna fishing sites—the Lagonoy Gulf covering the provinces of Albay, Catanduanes and Camarines Sur; and the Mindoro Strait in Occidental Mindoro.
Both areas are migratory pathways for yellowfin tuna—fat fish armed with impressive sickle fins.
“Securing the country’s first MSC certification to promote sustainable fishing is an excellent way to transform our tuna industry,” Binondo said.
“This stamp of approval adds immense market value to tuna sourced from our country. Consumers in Europe, Japan and America will know that the fish they are eating were caught fairly and sustainably,” she added.
Yellowfin is the country’s most valuable tuna species and accounts for a third of global tuna production.
Developed with scientists, conservationists and fisheries experts, MSC is an independent organization which creates and polishes environmental standards for sustainable, equitable and well-managed wild fisheries. It has certified 265 fisheries across the globe, which altogether account for 10 percent of all wild-capture fisheries.
Since 2011, WWF has been working to enhance yellowfin tuna management practices for 5,000 fishers in 112 tuna fishing villages around the Lagonoy Gulf and Mindoro Strait.
WWF is the world’s leading independent conservation body and works in more than 100 countries.
Its PPTST project has organized tuna fishing associations in all 15 municipalities in the Lagonoy Gulf, plus six LGUs in the Mindoro Strait.
It spearheaded the registration and licensing of tuna fishers, vessels and gear to minimize bycatch and illegal fishing, deployed 1,000 plastic tuna tags to make the fishery traceable, and completed a series of training sessions on proper tuna handling to ensure that exported tuna continually meet international quality standards.
“PPTST harnesses market power and consumer demand to promote sustainably-caught tuna and support low-impact fishing methods like artisanal fishing with hand-line reels,” Binondo said.
“It is the first and only Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for artisanal fisheries in the Philippines,” she said, adding that WWF is a close ally of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in promoting responsible fisheries.
Funded by Coop, Bell Seafood, Seafresh and the German Investment and Development Corporation, PPTST involves European seafood companies plus their local suppliers, BFAR, local government units in the Bicol region and Mindoro, the WWF Coral Triangle Programme, WWF-Germany plus WWF-Philippines.
“Far-sighted management guarantees the continued productivity of our fisheries—ensuring that the 100,000 people employed by the tuna fishing industry will continue reaping the bounty of the sea,” said Joel Palma, president and chief executive WWF-Philippines.
The Philippines is the world’s third largest tuna producer. Almost half its seafood exports come from yellowfin, skipjack and frigate tuna.
However, the unregulated use of giant nets called purse seines and floating aggregation devices called payao are rapidly depleting stocks. Many of the country’s tuna fisheries are severely overfished.
In June 2014, the European Union issued the Philippines a yellow card for failing to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing—a precursor to a total EU import ban on Philippine seafood products.
Acting decisively, the Philippine government led by the BFAR revamped the country’s fisheries laws—and the yellow card was lifted by April 2015.