GenSan tuna handline fishers seek concrete govt actions vs IUU fishing

GENERAL SANTOS CITY—Tuna handline operators and fishermen here have called on the national government to step up its efforts in curbing the rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities within the country’s territorial waters.

Jake Fajurano, secretary-general of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners here, said on Monday their monitoring showed that IUU fishing activities have continued to proliferate in the country’s fishing grounds and are already threatening the sustainability of the city’s tuna industry.

Fajurano said the Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), should carry out its mandate of curbing IUU fishing through the adoption of a national plan of action on the matter.

He was referring to the provisions of Executive Order (EO) 154 signed by President Aquino on December 6, 2013.

EO 154 mainly provides for the adoption of a national plan of action “to prevent, deter and eliminate” IUU fishing activities in the country.

“But as of today, the DA and the BFAR have failed to carry out their mandate to adopt a national plan of action for IUU fishing and create a multiagency committee that would lead its enforcement,” Fajurano said in a news conference.

Aside from EO 154, he said there are several fishery regulations against IUU fishing that were not fully enforced or implemented, making the campaign “ineffective.”

He specifically cited Fisheries Administrative Order 226, which disallows the trading of juvenile tuna weighing below 500 grams.

Such measure remains largely ignored by some fishing operators due to poor enforcement on the ground, he said.

Fajurano noted that the 2007 Handline Fishing Law also remained “toothless” due to the absence of implementing rules and regulations.

“The lack of concrete regulations and actions on IUU fishing allowed the massive juvenile tuna fishing by big purse seiners, resulting in the depletion of our tuna resources and catches,” he said.

He said some of the juvenile-tuna catches of the purse seine fishing vessels have even made their way to the city fish-port complex here.

Fajurano said the government should properly act on the matter and make serious efforts to curb IUU fishing or it risks blacklisting from the European Union (EU).

The EU issued a yellow card to the government in June and required it to strengthen the “legal framework to combat IUU fishing; improve control and monitoring actions; and take a proactive role in complying with international fishing laws and regulations.”

He said the tuna industry might lose billions of pesos on revenues if the government would fail to act on the matter as set by the EU.

DA and BFAR officials had assured that they have been acting against IUU fishing, and have launched a series of consultations with fishery stakeholders, as well as concerned sectors.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala is expected to provide updates on the matter during the two-day 2015 National Tuna Congress here, which is slated on September 3 and  4.

Alcala was invited as keynote speaker at the opening of the congress, which is considered as the biggest gathering of tuna-industry stakeholders.

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