Sustainable Fishing: A Key to Food Security

photo by Paul Hilton/GreenPeace

   Greenpeace along with Alliance of Tuna Handliners (ATH) organized a media briefing about sustainable tuna fishing and other related concerns for the GenSan media last March 6, 2014 at Grab a Crab, South Laurel, General Santos City. 

   Greenpeace and ATH are pushing for sustainable fishing method (handline, hook and line, pole and line methods), full implementation of R.A 9379 or the Handline Fishing Law and to raise awareness about sustainable fishing to the people.

   “The solution is actually here,” Vince Cinches said, Greenpeace Ocean Campaigner. He emphasizes the importance of sustainable fishing and the legal measures to support it. Vince also presented over-fishing and damping of tunas in our local ports. Raul Gonzales and Diony Seronimes also expressed their sentiments with regards to unsustainable fishing activities. The two came from ATH, and their organization partnered with Greenpeace to spread their advocacy of sustainable fishing. In their Executive Committee meeting held last November 27, 2013, they presented the current problems of fishing in the country. They stated that:

  •  Competition between commercial net fishing and the handline tuna fishing has proven to be difficult for the handline tuna fishermen. 
  • The National Stock Assessment Program observes the purse seiners landing catch in General Santos has smaller tunas ranging from 10 to 40 cm, 20% of which are yellow fin and bigeye. The same report also confirms that handliners catch yellow fin tunas ranging from 70 to 150 cm. This reality confirms our observations that when HSP-1 areas were closed to fishing, our yellow fin catch improves in both size and volume. Such observations only points to overfishing wherein too many small fish is being caught by highly mechanized commercial purse seiners. 
  • Handline tuna fishing in coastal waters needs fish aggregating devices to allow us anchor safely at sea and reduce out fishing costs.
  • Tuna handliners are concerned about dwindling tuna catch which directly supports about 400,000 people, excluding dependents.
As they have presented these threats and problems, they have also proposed solutions, and these are: 

  • It is our view that passive fishing gears such as handline, hook and line, pole and line are selective methods of fishing that provide employment and more sustainable livelihoods to the less privilege/less educated and should be given priority attention and government support. We support the idea of zoning the fishing grounds in the Moro Gulf and Sulu-Sulawesi seas, making them exclusive for passive fishing gears and preventing mechanized active fishing gears to fish therein. This would allow substantial time for tunas to grow. 
  •  Along the same line, we are of the view that the closing of HSP1 and other areas under WCPFC for longer periods would prove beneficial for the handline fishery sector. As such, the liberalized implementing rules and regulations for the Handline Fishing law should be immediately approve.
  • We call upon the Philippine government to fully disclose information relevant to fishing on HSP1 and other areas under WCPFC. We are also asking the government to reconsider amending rules on transshipment happening at Davao Toril fish port and importations of frozen tuna at Gensan fish port complex Market 4, as there are reports of dumping which competes with the local fishers. Finally, we do believe adequate representation from the handliners in WCPFC meetings and the approval of proposed Conservation and Management Measures would definitely have a positive impact on the handline tuna sector.
  •  The Philippine government should immediately begin to assess its fishing capacity according to the following criteria and ensure those vessels and fleets fulfilling these criteria are given priority access to resources and that a national capacity management and reduction plan is implemented in order to reduce the most destructive unsustainable and uneconomical part of the fleets.
  • The fishing capacity assessment criteria includes fishing methods which has low by-catch (Selectivity); less destructive fishing methods (Environmental impact); vessels and fishing methods consuming less energy per ton of fish caught (Energy consumption); fishing methods that provide more and reasonable employment conditions, compliant with standards with strong Government support (Employment and working conditions); greater direct income to and investment in the region derived from the fishing operations (Socio economic benefits); gear types providing the best quality of fish for human consumption (Quality of product) and proven compliance with applicable/appropriate rules, including quality of data provided by fishers as well as member states should be considered when granting access to a fishery (History of compliance). 

   In this kind of campaign, it seems that there’s a lack of stakeholders involvement. I only see a limited participation of specific group, which are the fishermen and the fishing companies. Moreover, the fishing industry in the Philippines has very complex issues that need multi-sectoral participation. These issues affects us all, from the grassroots up to the owners of fishing companies. If I didn’t attend the first Greenpeace Sustainable Fishing meet up last July 2012, I would still have myopic view of this issue. 

   The consumers should also be informed about this problem. Lack of consumer awareness is one of the hindrances on why this issue is still slow in terms of progress. 

   There are laws and regulations (like the R.A. 8550) already passed to protect and conserve our marine resources. It may sound cliché but these are all futile in the sense that unsustainable practices still prevail. Blaming game is not needed in this problem. Concrete action must be a top priority. Greenpeace has urged the Philippine government to design an effective measure to stop over-fishing, especially of tuna. But it seems our government is passive in responding this call. 

   Joan Meris, a blogger in Greenpeace Philippines, said:

“It is good because our own industry players are putting their heads on straight to promote and pursue sustainable fishing. Particularly, as the Philippines stands third in having the largest tuna catch, which also means we are one of the most exploitative. However, it is bad, as Philippine vessels fishing in another nation’s territory clearly denotes that our own tuna stocks are depleting or have already been depleted. And we are on the run around the globe chasing after diminishing marine resources.” 


1. ALLIANCE OF TUNA HANDLINERS. Excerpts from the previous minutes of the Executive Committee regular meeting on November 27, 2013 at ATH office, Delfin St., Purok Malakas, San Isidro, General Santos City. RE; Petition Letter to Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

2. Joan Meris. Kababayan towards a more sustainable tuna fishery.

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