A group of tuna fishers in General Santos City decried the government’s failure to step up efforts to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing that threaten the local tuna fishing industry.

Jake Fajurano, Melvi Fishing Industry manager and an officer of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, told media that the Department of Agriculture and the city government failed to implement Executive Order (EO) 154.

The EO 154, signed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd on December 2013, calls for the implementation of a national plan of action to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

There were some provisions, which if fully implemented, include the mobile registration of vessels with the Marina [Maritime Industry Authority] and BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources].

Based on a report from the BFAR, there are still many fishermen who are unlicensed and there are no rules and regulations available that would address this problem.

Fajurano underscored that aside from EO 154, other existing regulations are either largely lacking or ineffective against IUU fishing.

“In particular, Fisheries Administrative Order [FAO] 226, which disallows trading of juvenile tuna weighing below 500 grams, remains largely ignored due to its poor enforcement at the local level,” he said.

According to Fajurano, Republic Act 9379 or the Handline Fishing Law of 2007, remains “toothless” as it still has no implementing rules and regulations.

With this, Fajurano said, there is massive juvenile-tuna fishing remains unabated resulting to the decrease of tuna catch in General Santos City.

Billions of pesos in revenues will be lost if the government would not do anything to improve to address the issue, according to Fajurano.