Mamburao in the Philippines wants to be known as a hub of sustainable Tuna fishing. They recently held an annual festival to show off their tuna catches.
In partnership with the world wildlife fund they are using traditional hand line fishing--- rather than large trawler nets, in deep waters off Mindoro Strait.
With traditional hand line or kawil, they catch only the mature and high quality tuna are fish.
“We go out there into the Mindoro Strait. About 300 fishermen in several boats. We throw out our hand lines to catch the tuna. When we are not catching much, we stay there for days,” said
Roberto Cueto the officer of Tuna Fisheries Association in Mamburao town.
But Roberto—who started fishing when he was child—says they haven’t always fished like this.
“In 1995, there was illegal fishing with cyanide and dynamite. The catch wasn’t as good as now. Some people used dynamite and big nets. In 2008, when we learnt about the sustainable way to kill and handle tuna and started using use, we started producing export quality tuna for at least double the price.”
According to World Wildlife Fund or WWF, sixty present of the tuna stocks globally are overfished.
Half of the tuna consumed worldwide comes from the Western and Central Pacific, with the Philippines being one of the major suppliers of tuna products.
In 2011, WWF started a project with European and Philippine partners to establish more sustainable tuna fisheries.
The project aims to prevent overfishing of the Yellowfin tuna stock in Philippine waters and secure the livelihood of thousands of fisherfolks and their families who are dependent on this fishery for their livelihoods.
In Mindoro Occidental, WWF is working in 36 fishing villages along the west coast
Only registered fisherfolks are allowed to fish and they have to stay within 15 kilometers of their hometown.
“We continue to patrol to maintain the safe sea. We continue to educate people through seminars and dialogues with fisher folks especially the laws that protect the sea,” explained Police senior inspector Ronnie de Villa a member of the Task Force created to guard over the sea.
They are the first municipality in the country to receive a European Union Certification for conforming to all standards for exporting sustainable tuna.
“In the past, we didn’t see tuna as a primary commodity because Mamburao is an agricultural community and also a fishing community but it’s an eye opener to me that our tuna is of high quality,” said Sunshine Singun a municipal agriculturist.
She says groups from the other parts of the country are coming to learn from them.
“They want to know, to learn how Mamburao was able to maintain the quality of our tuna, basically our best management practices in our fisheries.”
They annually hold a tuna festival which showcases sustainably sourced tuna. Fisherfolks parade in decorated floats their best tuna catch while villagers dance around them.
Back at the shore of Mindoro Strait, Roberto Cueto says he hopes that more fisher folks will protect the seas which nurture people for next generations.
“It’s difficult being a fisherman. It can be dangerous. I didn’t really want my children to get into this but one of them who is university graduate has brought a boat and is interested because there is good money to earn through fishing now.”
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