The tuna fisheries exploiting the western central Pacific tuna stocks are the largest of its kind, representing an annual catch of skipjack (1.6 million t), yellowfin tuna (500’000 t) and bigeye (160’000 t) . Bluefin and albacore tuna only represent marginal catches in this area because they are predominantly distributed in temperate rather than tropical waters. The skipjack and yellowfin stocks are estimated to be in good health, whereas bigeye is estimated overfished. While skipjack is smaller and usually serves the market of canned tuna, yellowfin, bigeye and bluefin tuna are the large tuna species that serve the markets of raw tuna products e.g. in the form of sushi. Hence, among the tuna serving these high-end markets, only yellowfin can be presumed to be in good health.
The fishery exploiting yellowfin tuna mainly consists of industrial purse seiners that catch about 65% and longliners that take 20% of the catch. Of the total 500’000 t estimated to be caught annually, the handline fishery for large tunas only represents a marginal cause of mortality, catching an estimated 20’000 t annually, or <5% of the total yellowfin catch. This fishery occurs in the Philippines and Indonesia and is quite unique, as the only similar fishery to it is in the Maldives (see Fig. 1). Despite its low impact on exploited stocks, the fishery has a high social impact, representing at least 10’000 artisanal fishermen.
The handline tuna fishery occurs on all Philippines islands and, thanks to the gear used and fishing method, is highly selective. Large yellowfin tuna are caught using a circle hook baited with squid or small pelagic fish that is set at a depth around 100 m, where large tuna are found. From the available information on catch reports, 88% of the landings consist of yellowfin tuna in terms of numbers (or 96% in terms of weight). The fishery comprises a number of small-scale outrigger vessels made of wood and nylon of sizes ranging from 3-20 m length, with a majority around 6-10 m length, and consists of crews between 1 and 8 people that would stay at sea for 1-7 days. The smaller boats usually operate within the municipal waters 15 km from the shore and return daily, but larger vessels might fish throughout the EEZ and stay at sea for up to one week, the area of operation often being determined by the position of “payaos”, the FADs made of palm leaves. See the fishery profile for more details on the fishery.
The yellowfin tuna stock is rated as fully exploited according to the most recent fishery assessment by the WCPFC, i.e. the stock biomass is estimated to be around BMSY1. The assessment model used is sensitive to unknown parameters (e.g. steepness of recruitment) and the results are thus subject to uncertainty like in any other modeling framework, but, since the estimated removed biomass has been similar over the past few years, there is no immediate concern about this stock. The assessment refers to the Western Central Pacific tuna stock as a whole, of which the small-scale handliners represent around 3-4% of the catch.
The small-scale nature of the fishery and the gear used results in minimal environmental impacts: Hook and line generates almost no bycatch and does not affect the seafloor habitat.
Fishery management is almost completely absent in practice, but legislation does exist with respect to small-scale fisheries. Vessels and fisherfolk are usually not registered, catches and landings are not reported, and there are no standardized processes in place that facilitate the transfer of information between the different municipalities at the national level. The available information on the activity of this fishery comes from export figures, but the data is usually forged at the moment of export to be in line with the shipment order and is thus not accurate.
In summary, although fisheries management needs improvement, the fishery obtains a positive rating according to most sustainability classification methodologies, mainly due to its low environmental impacts and its currently positive stock assessment. For instance, it is rated as “Best Choice” by Seafood Watch and as sustainable by WWF, the main rating methodologies consulted by commercial actors in the US and Europe, respectively.
With respect to MSC certification, the fishery scores low mainly on P3, and partly on P1. Some issues of P1 are outside the scope of this project, because the fishery only represents <5% of total captures and can therefore not influence stock status of the WCPO stock or the overall harvest strategy. The project aims, however, to install HCRs, report fishing trips and catches, and make this information publicly available for the small-scale handline tuna fishery. To improve fisheries management, it is required to determine the fisheries’ long-term and specific objectives in a fisheries management plan (FMP) on one hand, and to enforce existing laws and fishing rules on the other. Furthermore, processes must be put in place to evaluate management performance. ARTESMAR® aims to build up the data reporting and traceability systems to meet non-IUU conditions in the internal supply chains and then to extend these to the fishery on a national level with public authorities, so not much progress is expected on the national level in the years 1-3 of the project since the improvements only apply to the ARTESMAR®-specific supply chains (see next section). It is expected that the developed system can then be extended in collaboration with BFAR and other exporters in years 3-5 of the project.
The MSC BMT applied refers to a UoC defined as the yellowfin handline tuna fishery of the Philippines as a whole. If the UoC was restricted to include only to the part of the fishery feeding into the ARTESMAR® supply chain, the MSC BMT assessment would already score more positively on P1 and P3 and result in a final score of 0.66 (instead of 0.55, if considering the fishery on a national level).
The ARTESMAR® FIP aims to improve the small-scale handline fishery for tuna using a stepwise approach. In the first step, the fishery should become compliant with legal requirements and non-IUU conditions. In a second step, management structures and processes should be built up that would make the fishery eligible for MSC certification. ARTESMAR® is a transparent framework for the fishery improvement of small-scale fleets with a set of criteria of eligibility, improvement, and Chain of Custody (CoC), which are verified by a third party. After the eligibility of a fishery is confirmed – being mainly based on the high catch selectivity and some basic resilience of the exploited species to fishing – a fishery-specific improvement plan is designed to meet the improvement criteria over a defined time scale . The CoC is verified in parallel with the eligibility, from which time the product can be sold under the ARTESMAR® brand, to guarantee that the product is exclusively sourced from fishery under assessment. This is an important part to ensure the credibility of a FIP and ARTESMAR® is currently the only FIP framework applying this approach. FIPs making claims on improvements would be considered invalid if traceability to the respective project sites cannot be guaranteed. See the ARTESMAR® brochure for more details about the scope and structure of ARTESMAR®.
Since a preceding PPP project seeking influence with public institutions failed to have an impact at the local fishery level and as commercial project partners did not adhere to agreements on sourcing areas, practices, traceability and food safety requirements, the processing and export plant Meliomar Inc. was founded to implement the FIP objectives. Meliomar Inc. now acts as the main local implementer of the first step of the FIP objectives, to make the fishery supplying Meliomar compliant with non-IUU conditions. Meliomar represents catches from approximately 3’000 fishermen by sourcing from this fishery from about 10 different areas in the Philippines: Mindoro occidental (Sablayan and Mamburao), Palawan (Puerto Princesa), Antique (San José, San Joaquim, Libertad), Negros (Bayawan, Sipalay, Hinoba-an, Santa Catalina, Siaton), Albay (Tabaco, Tiwi), Quezon (Infanta), Batangas (Balayan), Zamboanga (Zamboanga city), see Fig. 4. ARTESMAR® is a market-driven initiative using the leverage of commercial actors to implement improvement to comply with legal requirements. The impact of this initiative is currently limited to its sourcing capacity; hence these improvements only apply to the vessels and fishery operators supplying Meliomar, which represents a minor fraction of the fishery.
However, if the improvements lead to win-win situations of all stakeholders, it can be expected that good practices will be copied and applied in other supply chains outside of ARTESMAR®. Furthermore, the application of developed models can be extended to the fishery on the national level. For the second improvement step of building up management structures and mechanisms, the involvement of public institutions, mainly the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), is indispensable.
Initial Improvement Recommendations
- Implement vessel registration and FCR for ARTESMAR® suppliers in three pilot sites - DONE
- Design CDS and traceability system from vessel to export and implement it for all ARTESMAR® suppliers - DONE
- Design database for capturing all FCR, CDS and traceability information and implement it for all ARTESMAR® suppliers - DONE
- Knowledge transfer to fishermen for better handling to improve quality, and thus incomes through better pricing – WORK IN PROGRESS
- Improve cost-benefit control of fishery stakeholders – WORK IN PROGRESS
Current Improvement Recommendations
- Establish vessel registration scheme with BFAR to be applied nationwide by 2017.
- Extend FCR implementation from pilot sites to other ARTESMAR® suppliers by 2017.
- Define management structures with BFAR to interpret FCR information and create mechanisms for intervention by 2017.
- Organize fishery stakeholders in communities, optimize economics and capacities, and participate in management decisions by 2019.
How is this FIP Doing?