Philippines tuna industry makes waves

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tunaHappy days are here again for the tuna industry in the Philippines. Last year, a ban on yellowfin tuna fishing was lifted in a region of the western Pacific that has historically yielded copious amounts of the fish.

As a result, the total amount of yellowfin tuna production in the Philippines rose by 25 percent in the first quarter of this year over the same period last year.

This surge in production coincided with a surge in the value of the popular fish. Worldwide, the cost of tuna rose 12 percent over the past year to a current record high, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) global fish price index.

The growth in global demand for tuna has simply outpaced production. The central reason for this is that global tuna populations plummeted over the last several decades due to over-fishing. Yellowfin populations are relatively healthy, however, and this is part of the reason why the ban on fishing them in the western Pacific was lifted.

There are several factors driving the global demand for tuna. One is the rapid rise in the popularity of sushi restaurants around the world.  Tuna – particularly the yellowfin and bluefin species – is a staple of the sushi business. As these restaurants multiply, the price of essential sushi fish rises. Aquaculture, or farm-based, production has not been able to keep up with the demand.

Another reason for the surge in tuna prices is the growing demand for high-end food products in countries with burgeoning middle classes like China and India. According to the FAO, urbanisation and the spread of supermarkets are prompting higher fish consumption in emerging markets generally, with China leading the pack.

Developed countries also continue to consume large quantities of tuna, despite rising prices for the fish and widespread economic hardship. According to the FAO, “[t]he lingering economic crisis in the major seafood importing markets of northern Europe and North America has contributed to generally sluggish growth in seafood imports,” but “[d]emand for specific products has remained strong, namely salmon and tuna.”

In response to the alarming decline in tuna populations that resulted from all this consumption, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) placed a ban on tuna fishing in January 2010, in the region of the western Pacific where 60% of the world’s tuna are caught, in order to give the fish time to replenish their numbers. The WCPFC is a 25-member organization that includes the Philippines, Japan, and the EU. Although the WCPFC lifted the ban on yellowfin tuna fishing in this region in the middle of 2012, it has maintained restrictions on other kinds of tuna fishing, as well as on the amount and type of vessels that can be used.

Nevertheless, these restrictions are not hampering the productivity and profits currently being enjoyed by commercial tuna fishing ventures of all kinds in the Philippines. According to a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Agriculture, “commercial fisheries will grow by about 10 per cent this year because of the increase in tuna catch.”

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Happy days are here again for the tuna industry in the Philippines. Last year, a ban on yellowfin tuna fishing was lifted in a region of the western Pacific that has historically yielded copious amounts of the fish.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

tunaHappy days are here again for the tuna industry in the Philippines. Last year, a ban on yellowfin tuna fishing was lifted in a region of the western Pacific that has historically yielded copious amounts of the fish.

As a result, the total amount of yellowfin tuna production in the Philippines rose by 25 percent in the first quarter of this year over the same period last year.

This surge in production coincided with a surge in the value of the popular fish. Worldwide, the cost of tuna rose 12 percent over the past year to a current record high, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) global fish price index.

The growth in global demand for tuna has simply outpaced production. The central reason for this is that global tuna populations plummeted over the last several decades due to over-fishing. Yellowfin populations are relatively healthy, however, and this is part of the reason why the ban on fishing them in the western Pacific was lifted.

There are several factors driving the global demand for tuna. One is the rapid rise in the popularity of sushi restaurants around the world.  Tuna – particularly the yellowfin and bluefin species – is a staple of the sushi business. As these restaurants multiply, the price of essential sushi fish rises. Aquaculture, or farm-based, production has not been able to keep up with the demand.

Another reason for the surge in tuna prices is the growing demand for high-end food products in countries with burgeoning middle classes like China and India. According to the FAO, urbanisation and the spread of supermarkets are prompting higher fish consumption in emerging markets generally, with China leading the pack.

Developed countries also continue to consume large quantities of tuna, despite rising prices for the fish and widespread economic hardship. According to the FAO, “[t]he lingering economic crisis in the major seafood importing markets of northern Europe and North America has contributed to generally sluggish growth in seafood imports,” but “[d]emand for specific products has remained strong, namely salmon and tuna.”

In response to the alarming decline in tuna populations that resulted from all this consumption, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) placed a ban on tuna fishing in January 2010, in the region of the western Pacific where 60% of the world’s tuna are caught, in order to give the fish time to replenish their numbers. The WCPFC is a 25-member organization that includes the Philippines, Japan, and the EU. Although the WCPFC lifted the ban on yellowfin tuna fishing in this region in the middle of 2012, it has maintained restrictions on other kinds of tuna fishing, as well as on the amount and type of vessels that can be used.

Nevertheless, these restrictions are not hampering the productivity and profits currently being enjoyed by commercial tuna fishing ventures of all kinds in the Philippines. According to a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Agriculture, “commercial fisheries will grow by about 10 per cent this year because of the increase in tuna catch.”

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