The USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership traveled to General Santos City, Philippines, August 31 to September 2, 2016, to celebrate the 18th National Tuna Congress, marking the occasion with the launch of the project’s first live learning site. General Santos City, known as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines, will pilot the program’s Catch Documentation and Traceability (CDT) system, designed to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and enhance fisheries sustainability in the Asia-Pacific region. Working closely with the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the learning site will aid in the development, implementation, and testing of the CDT system, serving as a model for regional implementation. To inaugurate the learning site activities, the team held a technical session that drew over 150 participants from local government agencies, industry, NGOs, and academic institutions.
General Santos City, tuna capital of the Philippines, is central to the tuna fishing industry. Located in a major tuna migration corridor and situated in Sarangani Bay facing the Celebes Sea, the General Santos fishing port has boosted the fishing industry in the city—and the region—as its tuna is exported across the region and around the globe. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, however, is threatening Asia-Pacific’s fisheries, with impacts to the economy, fishery productivity, marine biodiversity, and human welfare. There is a growing concern that impacts to the biodiversity of natural and fisheries resources may eventually lead to unwanted consequences, affecting not only the local area but wider areas of regional and global concern. As such, the U.S. Agency for International Development Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) was developed and is engaging with the Philippines and other Asia-Pacific nations to combat IUU to avoid further damage to the environment and marine resources.
Enhancing Traceability: From Bait to Plate
Catch documentation helps to improve traceability and establish a chain of custody for seafood. Collecting data on the catch type, place of harvest, method of fishing, and other critical data that follows seafood from its point of catch all the way to its point of final shipping helps local officials, importers, regional governments, and fisheries management experts to collect data to better ensure seafood has been legally, responsibly, and sustainably sourced. The impact of this data extends beyond the development of data sets, with tremendous opportunity to improve fisheries management plans, enable improved and informed policy and governance decisions, improve trade, and address critical human welfare issues in the region, such as labor abuses, human trafficking, and gender inequalities.
Partnering for Change
USAID Oceans and the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources have developed a partnership, preparing to make the Philippines one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to implement the USAID Oceans CDT system. General Santos City will serve as a one of two USAID Oceans Learning Sites, where the system will be designed, implemented, and tested among local fishing vessels. USAID Oceans and the Philippines will work together, along with a sister Learning Site in Bitung, Indonesia, to develop a fully tested catch documentation system that can be expanded throughout the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to establishing a traceability system that will reduce IUU fishing, improve fishery sustainability, and maintain marine species and habitats, USAID Oceans and the Philippines will also work together to use traceability data and conduct critical research to establish a fisheries management plan that considers all ecosystem factors to ensure sustainable management and productivity.
Extending Beyond the Environment and Economics
The human impact of IUU fishing extends beyond regional economies and trade. Southeast Asia’s fisheries support the livelihood of over 200 million individuals in the region. In addition to providing income and food security, human welfare concerns and labor rights abuses are a major issue in the fisheries industry. Together, USAID Oceans and the Philippines will work to collect key labor data from the CDT system, design workshops and trainings that focus on gender equality and labor rights, and serve as an advocate in the region for raising awareness and recommending policies that support fair labor conditions and combat human trafficking and labor abuse.
USAID Oceans will launch its second learning site in Bitung, Indonesia, in cooperation with the Indonesia Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.