PH exemption from tuna fishing ban in danger?

Posted at 12/02/2012 4:53 PM | Updated as of 12/03/2012 7:57 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) wants a stop to the overfishing of bigeye tuna as different nations, including the Philippines, start to discuss Sunday several conservation and management measures in high seas.

PNA Chair Nanette Malsol said they are already sick of “foreign fishing nations continually arguing for special exemptions from the rules and for ways they can continue overfishing of bigeye tuna, use FADs (fish aggregating devices), access the high seas and generally continue with business as usual.”

The 9th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting starts today at the Philippine International Convention Center. It is expected to review the tuna fishing ban in four pockets of high seas in the Western and Central Pacific Region.

The Philippines, which is a member of the commission, was granted an exemption in pocket 1 due to calls from the government led by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The Philippines is one of the world’s largest tuna catchers, with the industry in General Santos City buoying the country’s export numbers.

“This week it’s up to the big fishing nations to show the world what they are going to do to cut overfishing of bigeye tuna. Foreign fishing nations need to cut back fishing, limit FADS, respect the closure of high seas and protect whale sharks,” Malsol said.

According to its website, PNA controls the world's largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery. Its members are: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

FADs

Meanwhile, the Pew Environment Group also revealed today that an estimated 47,000 to 105,000 FADs are being used worldwide to catch tuna and other species of fish.

“The deployment of tens of thousands of drifting fish aggregating devices in the world’s oceans with little to no oversight is extremely worrisome,” said Amanda Nickson, Pew director of tuna conservation.

Pew explained that FADs often extend 50 meters below the surface and can be made from a variety of materials such as bamboo floats, plastic ribbons, and old nets. They can be adrift for years at a time and attract a wide variety of marine life, including skipjack tuna, sharks, billfish, juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna.

Pew said FADs has contributed to the overfishing of bigeye tuna. Sea turtles, sharks and small fishes are often killed via this method, it said.

“The fishing industry is not currently required to account for its use of FADs. It is being allowed to gamble with the health of the ocean, and it is time for governments to require full accountability and management of this proliferating and risky fishing gear,” said Nickson.

Pew is urging governments to take action in managing and regulating FADs.