The coastal waters of the Philippines in south-east Asia provide important spawning grounds for yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), a large migratory tuna species that is found in tropical and sub-tropical oceans around the world. The productive fishing grounds in the Philippines also play host to important handline and purse seine fishing industries that provide a livelihood to thousands of people in the region.
The Philippines is one of the largest exporters of tuna in Asia, shipping over 100,000 tonnes of yellowfin, bigeye and skipjack tuna to markets across the globe. Yellowfin is an important commercial tuna species, particularly on the raw Sashimi Markets in Japan but it is also a predator within the marine food chain helping to maintain a balance in the ocean environment.
In the Philippines, the tuna industry includes both artisanal fishers and a large commercial purse seine fishery. Both these fisheries have been managed poorly, resulting from insufficient rules to ensure that the yellowfin tuna is harvested sustainably within the western central Pacific. The Philippine tuna fishery needs to become fully compliant with the management rules of the regional fisheries management organisation which aims to safeguard tuna stocks. In particular, the bycatch (accidental catch) of juvenile yellowfin tuna in the Philippine purse seine fishery needs to be reduced and the number of the fish-aggregating devices (objects that attract fish to a specific area, making them easier to catch) needs to be better managed. There is also the need to tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing that occurs in Filipino waters. IUU fishing makes management significantly difficult – as it’s hard to account for fish that is harvested illegally in management plans and the sustainable management of a fishery becomes impossible.
The Philippines yellowfin tuna fishery has been part of a Fishery Improvement project since 2011. The project is designed to identify and mitigate shortcomings in management in order to assist the fishery in moving towards certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The project focuses on two geographic locations that support over 6000 hand-line fishers from 140 fishing villages. This fishery is predominantly artisanal with tuna caught using traditional and highly selective handline fishing methods. Handline fishing has very little bycatch of other species or juvenile tuna and is considered to be one of the more environmentally sound fishing method. However, the fishery faces a number of issues that the project will be addressing. As yellowfin tuna is a highly migratory species, its management will have to be improved not only at the local level, but also at national and regional level.
The participants in the Philippines Yellowfin tuna FIP will provide technical, financial and other support to strengthen the position of small-scale fisheries and secure their livelihoods by establishing long-term market access, and provide more selectively caught and sustainable tuna products to progressive and environmentally aware consumers in Europe.
Participants involved in this FIP include Bell (Switzerland), Coop (Switzerland), the German Investment and Development Bank (DEG), Marks and Spencer (M&S), New England Seafood International (UK), Sainsbury’s (UK), Sea Fresh (Netherlands), Waitrose (UK), WWF-Germany, WWF-Philippines, WWF Netherlands, WWF-UK, WWF Switzerland, and in the Philippines the Bureau Of Fisheries