More stringent steps have been taken to keep a closer eye on yellowfin tuna in the Philippines, following the global cry over illegally and commercially fishing that's forcing the species to extinction.
In a press release by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), WWF joined up with the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to embark on a tuna tagging project in Coral Triangle waters and gather more data on the movements of yellowfin tuna. The project will also identify the key spawning, feeding, and nursery grounds of this commercially-valuable species.
This tagging activity is being conducted in different areas in the country, starting in one of WWF's Fishery Improvement Project sites100 kilometres off the western seaboard of Mindoro Occidental—an area identified by fishers as a site where yellowfin tuna can be found, the statement said.
"Very little is known about the natural habits of this valuable open water species in the Philippines, which proves the need to invest more on research," says Dr Jose Ingles, Tuna Strategy Leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Program.
"Through this tagging activity, we hope to get a better understanding of the behaviour of tuna where and how long they stay in a particular water column, where they feed, and where they stay during their reproductive phase," added Dr. Ingles.
Data collected will provide critical information that can help protect the species in specific sites during its most vulnerable life stages.
"Knowing where these critical tuna habitats are will help inform management plans for a more sustainable tuna industry in this part of the world and help make a stronger case for implementing and enforcing more Marine Protected Areasthat provides countless benefits to millions of people."
The Coral Triangle, which encompasses the seas of six countries in the Asia-Pacific region, is a known tuna nursery area and migratory path.
Tuna caught in the Coral Triangle makes for about 30 per cent of the total global tuna catch, contributing as much as 35 per cent to the total tuna catch coming from the Western Central Pacific Ocean, which accounts for more than half the world's tuna production.
Tuna is a multi-million dollar industry in this part of the world, feeding millions of people, providing jobs and livelihood, and sustaining economies in this region.
However, this industry is scrambling to supply growing international demand for tuna, putting more pressure on already heavily fished tuna stocks in the Western and Central and Indian oceans of the Coral Triangle region.
Some tuna species such as the much sought-after Bigeye and yellowfin tuna are now fully exploited, and signs of overfishing are occurring in the country.
A total of 16pop-up satellite tags will be deployed on large adult yellowfin tuna (weighing more than 70 kg) throughout the duration of this activity.
Pop-up satellite tags, which are attached at the back of the tuna, collect vital data such as temperature, depth, and light intensity, and are programed to automatically detach from the fish after three to six months when it floats to the surface and sends out information via satellite transmission and into a server.
Follow the tuna tagging adventures of Dr. Ingles through this blog: wwf.panda.org/tunataggingblog/
This tuna tagging activity is supported by the Postcode Lottery Project Oceans, Turing Foundation, the Crown Family Foundation, and by Edeka Group from Germany.