The need to ban fish aggregating devices (FADs) to save juvenile baby tunas. Greenpeace uncovers trade in juvenile tuna in General Santos Fish Port

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1 The need to ban fish aggregating devices (FADs) to save juvenile baby tunas 2 December 2014 Quezon City, Philippines Greenpeace uncovers trade in juvenile tuna in General Santos Fish Port Introduction General Santos City is the tuna capital of the Philippines. It is the home port to a large fleet comprising 299 fish carriers, 86 ringnet vessels, 91 purse seiners and 110 handliners 1. Six of the eight tuna canneries in the Philippines are located here. In 2013, the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority in General Santos reported that more than 80% of the 167,578 tons of fish unloaded in this city were tuna 2. However, what these figures don t show is that the tuna landings include a significant volume of juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna. This briefing paper describes how Greenpeace uncovered rampant juvenile tuna trading in General Santos port. The problem with fishing juvenile tuna Skipjack tuna, also known as Katsuwonus pelamis, is a key target species for purse seine and ringnet vessels operating out of General Santos and is in high demand for the processing companies located there. Skipjack is a fast-growing species, able to breed once they reach a size of approximately 40 cm, which can take a year or less. 3 Yellowfin tuna, or Thunnus albacares, take a longer time to grow and reach sexual maturity. It takes approximately two years before yellowfin reach 100 cm in size and can reproduce. 4 Bigeye tuna Thunnus obesus take an even longer time about three years before reaching maturity at 100 cm. 5 It is only after they reach these sizes that individuals can breed and contribute to the fish stock. The slower 1 Ambutong Pautong, BFAR Region XII Director, personal communication 3 November Commercial Fishing Vessels as of May Espejo, E. (2014) Gensan no longer PH tuna capital? and PFDA (2014) Volume of Fish Unloadings 3 Rice J, Harley S, Davies N, Hampton J (2014. Stock assessment of skipjack tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean. (Rev 1 25 July 2014). Scientific Committee Tenth Regular Session, 6 14 Aug 2013, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). https://www.wcpfc.int/node/ Davies N, Harley S, Hampton J, McKechnie S. (2014). Stock assessment of yellowfin tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean Rev 1 (25 July 2014) Scientific Committee Tenth Regular Session, 6 14 Aug 2013, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). https://www.wcpfc.int/node/ Harley S, N. Davies N, Hampton J, McKechnie S (2014). Stock assessment of bigeye tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean Rev 1 (25 July 2014). Scientific Committee Tenth Regular Session, 6 14 Aug 2013, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). https://www.wcpfc.int/node/

2 growth rate and later age at which yellowfin and bigeye tuna first reproduce means that they are more vulnerable to overfishing, compared to the fast-growing skipjack tuna. Tuna purse seine and ringnet vessels, including those operating out of General Santos, commonly use fish aggregating devices (FADs, or locally known as payaos) large floating objects that attract schools of fish and make the task of locating and catching them easier. Unfortunately, juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna tend to aggregate around FADs and are caught in the nets alongside the similar-sized skipjack tuna that are the target species. The high catch rate of juvenile bigeye tuna by purse seine vessels using FADs is a key cause of a significant decline in the population of that species recent figures from the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission put numbers at just 16% 6 of the unfished population. Catching juvenile tuna is also an extremely wasteful practice the small fish are sold for relatively little money, but if left to grow to full size, bigeye and yellowfin tuna can be a valuable catch for handline and longline vessels. Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 226 of the Philippines states that tuna under 500 g in weight cannot be traded, with the exception of allowable by catch comprising 10% of a catch 7. However, the by catch ceiling combined with the fact that mature yellowfin 8 and bigeye 9 tuna weigh between kg, means that significant volumes of juvenile tuna can still be traded legally, with serious consequences for fisheries and the environment. Greenpeace investigates With this in mind, a contingent of volunteers recently visited the General Santos Port. Armed with the knowledge about existing stocks and biology of tunas, they compiled evidence which confirms that juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna are being traded less than the average size at maturity of 100 cm in length, and also below the weight limit of 500 g set by FAO 226. Volunteers used external lateral lines to differentiate yellowfin and bigeye tunas. The investigation was conducted at Fish Market 2, where small and medium purse seine operators and municipal fishers land tuna and other species. Large and foreign industrial purse seiners land their catch in another part of the fish complex (e.g. Market 3), which we were not able to access. After unloading from fishing boats or fish carriers, tunas are sorted by weight and size. Tunas are temporarily stored in vats awaiting favourable prices from prospective buyers from the domestic wet market or canneries. 6 Harley S, Davies N, Hampton J, McKechnie S (2014). Stock assessment of bigeye tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean. Scientific Committee Tenth Regular Session, 6 14 August 2014, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). WCPFC- - - SC /SA-WP-01. https://wcpfc.int/node/ Section 2 of Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 226 s prohibits the operation of tuna purse seine nets with mesh size smaller than 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) at the bag or bunt portion in catching tuna. It shall be unlawful also to trade small tuna (<500 grams) caught beyond the by-catch ceiling of 10%. 8 Estimated using Fishbase Length-Weight calculator for yellowfin: 9 Estimated using Fishbase Length-Weight calculator for bigeye: 2

3 Working in teams of 3, volunteers took pictures at the marketplace and when possible, got rulers or notebooks in the frame to measure the size of the tuna. The team reported intimidating tactics. There were some reports of traders hiding juvenile tuna when they saw the volunteers approaching their trading areas. Volunteers conducted daily observations over a period of two weeks. What we found: Environmental destruction and lost opportunities for revenue Volunteers focused on documenting juvenile yellowfin and bigeye which are about half an arm s length (Plate 1). Using this as criteria for observation, volunteers documented some 50 juvenile yellowfin ranging from 14 to 36 cm in length, with an average size of 23 cm far less than the 100 cm that indicates the tuna has reached sexual maturity and is able to reproduce. Juvenile bigeye tuna were observed (Plate 2). At 14, 23 and 36 cm, typical yellowfin tuna would weigh around 52 g, 226 g and 843 g, respectively 10. Greenpeace was able to obtain video footage that shows 10 juvenile yellowfin tuna being weighed 11 the total weight was 1 kg, which means the tuna weighed around 100 g each on average, considerably below the minimum size for trading. While we were not able to conduct a full survey of the landings to determine what percentage of the catch was undersized, the fact that these fish were relatively easy to find suggests that further investigation may be warranted. The size of the market area, volume of catches and difficulty obtaining access to measure fish means that this is probably just a small portion of the juvenile tuna to be found in the port complex. In addition to the fish that we were able to directly measure, we also witnessed (and photographed) many instances where small bigeye and yellowfin can clearly be seen mixed together with skipjack tuna as would be expected when tuna is targeted using FADs(Plates 3-9). One kilo of juvenile yellowfin tuna sells for only P90 or $2.0 12,which means that each of the juvenile yellowfin that we documented being weighed may have been sold for as little as P9 a piece 13. Had these yellowfin tuna been allowed to grow to maturity, they could be sold at much higher prices. Handliners sell export-quality Class A yellowfin tuna, weighing at least 35 kg and above, for about P ($ $7.19) per kilo (over P10,000 or $ for a single fish); while Class B of the same weight are sold at P ($ $5.39) per kilo and are usually destined for canneries and processors Estimated using Fishbase calculator: 11 https://greenpeace.app.box.com/files/0/f/ /1/f_ Trader, personal communication, 19 November https://greenpeace.app.box.com/files/0/f/ /1/f_ Raul Gonzales. Alliance of Tuna Handliners. Personal Communication. 29 July

4 Policy Recommendations Greenpeace recommends that the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) act on the following:: Reduce the number of purse seiners to align with sustainable catch levels and allow overfished bigeye and other tuna stocks to recover; To tackle by catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna, BFAR must also ban the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) 15 by vessels using unselective fishing gears such as purse seine nets. Together, these measures represent the most effective strategy to conserve yellowfin and bigeye stocks; Philippines must establish ocean sanctuaries to allow tropical tuna to grow. It should also keep its promise to protect juvenile tuna spawning areas in the Philippines from being overexploited. 15 Greenpeace Briefing Paper for WCPFC11 https://www.wcpfc.int/system/files/wcpfc OP11%20Greenpeace%20Briefing%20paper%20for%20WCPFC11.pdf 4

5 Plate 1. Target juvenile measurements - half arm s length Plate 2. (Top) Juvenile bigeye tuna around 16 cm (Below) Juvenile jack 5

6 Plate 3. Juvenile yellowfin less than 1 kilogram Plate 4. Baby yellowfin tunas weighing about 100 grams each 6

7 Plate 5. Juvenile yellowfins Plate 6. Juvenile yellowfin about 28 cm 7

8 Plate 7. Juvenile yellowfin mixed with other species of fish Plate 8. Baby yellowfin tuna at 100 grams 8

9 Plate 9. Juvenile yellowfin mixed with other species of fish 9

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