By Allen Estabillo*
General Santos City, Philippines.- The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will set up additional Tuna Conservation and Management Zones (TCMZ) in tuna fishing grounds within the country’s territorial waters next year.
Rafael Ramiscal, BFAR’s capture fisheries division chief, said on Thursday they plan to expand the project in five fishing grounds of the country’s eastern and western coasts.
He said the project will take off from the pilot TCMZ launched last April in identified “small tuna hotspots” off the Celebes Sea in Sarangani Province.
The establishment of the tuna conservation zone, a “national priority project” of the Department of Agriculture and BFAR, is covered by Fisheries Administrative Order No. 258.
It aims to provide exclusive fishing zones for tuna handline fishermen in designated areas, promote the conservation and management of offshores tuna through the reduction of catches of juvenile species, and provide livelihood for small-scale fishermen.
Ramiscal said they initially deployed last July at least 15 fish aggregating devices (FADs) or “payaos” in two of the seven identified cluster sites within the TCMZ at the Celebes Sea.
The pilot area, about 20 to 25 kilometers from the coastal barangays, covers a total of 272,160 hectares or 38,800 hectares per cluster.
The FADs costing between P200,000 and P300,000 each were provided by the agency for the Alliance of Tuna Handliners (ATH) through a memorandum of agreement, Ramiscal said.
He said ATH, with members based in this city and the six coastal towns of Sarangani, was tasked to manage, maintain and protect the FADs.
“We’re deploying a total 70 FADs or 10 each for the seven clusters,” Ramiscal told the Philippine News Agency at the sidelines of the 20th National Tuna Congress here.
Under the program, he said only small hook and line, or handline fishermen can operate within the established TCMZ.
He said the use of any type of fish net is prohibited to protect the juvenile tuna and other small fish.
Ramiscal stated some of the FADs deployed last July off the towns of Kiamba and Glan in Sarangani and Balut Island were damaged due to unfavorable weather conditions and strong sea current.
He said the BFAR is improving the design and components of the other FADs to make them more durable.
“We’re drawing lessons from the pilot site which will be considered before its rollout to other areas,” he added.