Better regional cooperation in the light of declining world tuna catch is top among the agenda of the 17th Philippine National Tuna Congress next month.
More than 500 delegates are expected to attend the Philippine tuna congress which will be held on September 3 and 4 at the SM General Santos Trade Halls.
Fisheries scientist Keith Bigelow of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States Department of Commerce is slated to give inputs on Initiatives on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud in relation to increased monitoring on the traceability of global tuna catches.
Invited to the national tuna congress is Sukchai Arnupapboon head of the Fishing Ground and Fishery Oceanography Section Head of the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center who will report on 2014 Oceanographic Survey in Sulu-Sulawesi Seas, a strategic tuna fishing ground in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
Also expected to speak at the national tuna congress is Indonesian Marine and Fishery Affairs Minister Susi Pudjiastuti who will tackle her country’s approach on regional fisheries sustainability.
The Indonesian minister made an international splash when she spearheaded the blowing up foreign fishing vessels caught illegally fishing in their territorial waters.
Indonesia likewise required the reflagging of foreign fishing vessels operating in their territorial waters which drew varied protests from foreign fishing companies who are also obliged to follow the country’s policy of full complement of Indonesian fishing crew.
But the major concern among local fishermen here is the declining catch which saw a dramatic dive ion the first half of this year.
According to General Santos City fish port manager Mario Malinao, citing local landings at the fishing port complex in the city, local tuna catch have gown down by 25 percent.
Just six months after posting a 10-year record high 101,480.19 metric tons (MT) in 2014, fish landing in General Santos dropped to just 42,064.73 MT in the first 6 months of this year down from 55,846.31 MT over the same period last year.
Approximately 90 percent of total fish landings in General Santos City are tuna and tuna like species.
Malinao however said despite the drop in local tuna catch in General Santos, the country’s famed tuna capital, overall landings in the first half of this year is up by 9 percent – aided primarily by a 50 percent hike in frozen tuna imports.
The bulk of landings at the fishing port complex in Tambler, General Santos City in the first semester this year came from the 72,875.01 MT of imported frozen tuna, which registered a hefty 50 percent spike over last year’s 48,464.62 frozen imports.
While General Santos produces approximately only 60 percent of the country’s annual tuna output, it is the primary origin of the Philippine’s annual tuna exports which, in 2014, amounted to US$459.83 million but down from US$664.50 million in 2013.
General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera however is confident the local tuna industry will be able to bounce back from what is now being widely accepted as a down year in Philippine tuna production.
He emphasized the need for greater cooperation among tuna producing countries in South East Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia which lie in the strategic international migratory path of tuna and which share international sea boundaries.
He also admitted that most Philippine tuna companies, which have invested in tuna canning and processing in Indonesia, have suspended or scaled down their operations there amid declining tuna catch and uncertainties in the fishing policies of the Philippine’s neighboring country.
Mayor Rivera is hoping the two countries can re-establish fishing ties after the bilateral agreement were terminated by Indonesia in 2010 following a 2-year extension in 2008.
The Philippine tuna congress is one of the major highlights of the Philippine tuna Festival which reels off on September 1.