A tuna tag recovered



Posted on 28 November 2012  | 
Tuna fishermen in a boat
© WWF / Jose InglesEnlarge
As I scanned through my email inbox during the tagging last November, one item stood out: a forwarded note from Sablayan, Mindoro, from the tag manufacturer in California, informing me of a tag recovered from a tuna caught a day before.

A couple of phone calls confirmed that the tag in question was one of the 3 tags that we attached to tunas some 2 weeks earlier. The fisher with the satellite pop up tag was Rey Herra from Sitio Tabak, Barangay Buenavista, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.

Still with sea legs, I arranged a meeting with the fisher the next day, requesting him to postpone their planned trip for the day so I could recover the pop-up tag, interview, and then pay him the reward.

Sablayan in Mindoro is quite a large coastal town. Together with the neighbouring town of Mamburao, these 2 urban centres account for about 80% of the tuna fishing fleet of the province, whose estimated annual catch of large tunas reach about 2,000 tonnes per year.

To reach Sablayan from Manila, I took a 4:00am bus to Batangas City in order to catch a ferry to Abra de Ilog that leaves at 8:00am (which is a 3-hour ride), took a 45-minute ride to Mamburao on a mini bus, and then transferred to a bigger bus for a 2-hour ride to Sablayan town. After another short 10-minute tricycle ride, I finally reached the house of Rey at around 3:00pm, some 12 hours after I left Manila!

Upon reaching Rey’s house, I was surprised to be greeted by hoards of people mingling around: members of his family, neighbors, friends, and curious onlookers—all were eager to learn why a tag was attached to a tuna, if indeed a reward would be paid and how much, and, curiously, what kind of people do this kind of work.

I was invited into Rey’s house. Built over several years of hard work, the house is a bungalow type made of concrete blocks and corrugated iron sheet roofing, and is a work in progress. Inside the house was a TV and a stereo set with large speakers, and a gas cooking stove. This is a typical tuna fisher’s house, reflecting the higher socio-economic standing of being a tuna handline fisher.

Onlookers ogled from the doors and windows around the house, eager to catch threads from the conversation. Soda and biscuits were offered as snacks while I explained the purpose of putting the tags on tunas, and why it is important to the fishers as well.

After the reward was paid and pictures were taken, we went to the shore to wish his boat and crew good bye and the best of luck.The fishers prayed to catch another tuna with a tag. I prayed otherwise -- the longer the tags stayed in the water, the more tuna data we would get. Find out the results of this tag in my next blog entry.

Posted by Jose Ingles (Jingles)
Tuna fishermen in a boat
© WWF / Jose Ingles Enlarge
A recovered tuna tag
© WWF / Jose Ingles Enlarge

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