Small-scale fishers in the Coral Triangle get big break in global market
Strict European Union policies on sourcing tuna plus increasing consumer demand for responsibly-caught seafood have made it difficult for small-scale fishers in impoverished tuna producing countries to stay on par with global standards, oftentimes losing out on profitable market opportunities.
“Through this partnership, we aim to create enabling conditions for small-scale fisheries to move towards a more sustainable management regime and generate more equitable market benefits in the long term,” says Dr Jose Ingles, WWF Coral Triangle Programme Tuna Strategy Leader.
The project, which focuses on handline-caught Yellowfin tuna, will be implemented in identified pilot sites in the Philippines for four years, in partnership with the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and relevant local government units.
It will guide fishers to move towards meeting the sustainability criteria of the Marine Stewardship Council—the world's leading certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood.
Tuna handline fishing, done on small traditional boats, involves the use of single hooks that catch tuna individually. Because of its highly selective method, handline fishing is seen to have less impact on the marine environment, usually targeting large and mature tuna that have already reproduced.
The fishery, however, stands to gain much more by meeting global standards. The management plan will protect tuna stocks and the socio-economic requirements of its stakeholders through infrastructure improvements, including a traceability system, scientific monitoring methods, safety standard procedures and product quality measures both at local and national levels.
“Our approach is to work closely with key players along the tuna supply chain from fishing communities, Philippine traders, European processors, to high value consumer markets in Europe and help build the right capacity and management systems for long term engagement,” adds Ingles.
Around 2,200 wooden boats and 8,000 fishermen will initially be involved in the project.
“Lessons learned from this project will definitely benefit the entire Philippine tuna industry and can be replicated in other parts of the Coral Triangle region.”
The Coral Triangle contains spawning and nursery grounds and migratory routes for commercially-valuable tuna species such as Bigeye, Yellowfin and Skipjack, producing more than 40% of the total catch for the Western Central Pacific region, and representing more than 20% of the total global catch.
Tuna is a highly valuable marine resource that fuels the economies of this region’s developing nations and supports the livelihoods of millions of people.
However, the rising demand for tuna products and the lack of effective policies to regulate the fishing industry is causing the overexploitation of certain tuna species in the Coral Triangle.
“This project is a win-win situation for handline fishers in the region who see this trade as their only source of income, for European markets that are looking for more and more responsibly-caught tuna products, and for the health of tuna stocks of this region.”
The project is being party funded by the German Investment and Development Agency (DEG) and supported by Bell Seafood, Coop Switzerland and Sea Fresh.