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First fishery in the Philippines certified to the MSC’s international standard for sustainability

The Philippine Tuna Handline Partnership has become the first fishers’ organization in the Philippines to achieve certification to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) globally recognised standard for sustainable fishing. 

The Philippines Small Scale Yellowfin Tuna Handline Fishery joins a leading group of sustainable fisheries able to verify their sustainability to the global, science-based standard set by the MSC [1].

This is a significant milestone for the Philippines, a major fishing nation where small-scale fishing makes a significant contribution to the national economy in terms of both income and employment. As well as helping to safeguard fish stocks and the marine environment, MSC certification means that tuna from the fishery can now be sold with the blue MSC label, creating new market opportunities for artisanal fishers. 

The Philippine Tuna Handline Partnership (PTHP) is made up of 500 artisanal fishing boats harvesting yellowfin tuna using traditional handline fishing gear along the Occidental Mindoro Strait and Gulf of Lagonov [2]. The Partnership includes around 2,000 fishers in one of the Philippines’ most productive fishing areas.

The PTHP has been supported by the WWF-Philippines Yellowfin Tuna Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) since 2011 [3]. By bringing together multiple stakeholders, this credible FIP has helped to identify and deliver improvements to the fishery’s performance, with the goal of meeting the MSC Fisheries Standard.  

As a result, over the past decade, the fishery’s management processes have been improved to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks, minimal environmental impacts and the ongoing health and diversity of the marine ecosystem. Of particular note were improvements made to the fishery’s information system, data collection and vessel registration systems.

Patrick Caleo, Regional Director Asia Pacific at the Marine Stewardship Council said:“This is a historic certification that marks a ten-year long journey of making improvements towards sustainability in this small-scale fishery. The tremendous efforts made by the fishers to achieve MSC certification will help safeguard livelihoods, seafood supplies and healthy oceans for future generations. It is especially important in coastal communities who depend on the fishing industry for food and income. We hope to see other small scale and Filipino fisheries follow the handline tuna fishers’ lead by joining the global movement for seafood sustainability." 

Fishing in the Philippines is more than an industry, it is a way of life. Many families have been involved in fishing for tuna for generations. 80% of Filipinos live in coastal municipalities and 85% of Filipino fishers are registered as small-scale fishers [4]. 

Small-scale fisheries contribute to around half of global seafood catch and employ more than 90% of all those working for fisheries. Making sure small-scale fisheries operate sustainably is therefore important for healthy marine ecosystems and communities who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods [5].  

Mr. Sammy Garcia, Chairman – Philippine Association of Tuna Processors, Inc said: “The MSC Certification is our first leap to a bigger and more sustainable future. Three words can best describe our journey to MSC: unity, which was shared between every member of this organization towards a common goal; transparency, which helped us realize that being fair is being sustainable; and empowerment, which enabled our fishers to dream and to set and achieve their own goals. Our fisher friends have realized that by working together, with the right traceability system and protocols in place, their livelihood and tradition continue on.”
The assessment of the fishery to the MSC Fisheries Standard was conducted by an independent assessment team from SCS Global Services. The assessors found that while the PTHP fishery meets the high standards set by the MSC, there are several areas with room for improvement, resulting in nine conditions of certification. These are time-dependent goals the fishery must meet to retain its certificate, with progress assessed annually. To make these improvements, the fishery has an action plan, coordinated with other stakeholders including local, national and regional management agencies, that responds to the state of the fish stocks. It must also gather more data on any potential ecosystem impacts.  


Notes to editor  

Additional quotes:
Mr. Antenogenes Reaso, MSC Client Group Representative – Gulf of Lagonoy Tuna Fishers Federations, Inc said: “A decade of hard work went into achieving this MSC certification, but we’ve seen what it can mean for us – a sense of economic stability, for those of us who depend on fishing.” 

Mr. Bernard Mayo, MSC Client Group Representative – Occidental Mindoro Federation of Tuna Fishers Association, Inc said: “This MSC certification is good, though we still need to work together to follow up on the conditions set by the MSC. We will use these conditions in order to make our fisheries more sustainable, so that they will continue to be of benefit to future generations.”

References and further information: 
[1] There are currently 441 MSC certified fisheries accounting for around 14% of global wild seafood harvest.
[2] Lagonoy Gulf is one of the most productive fishing areas on the east coast of the Philippines. The Gulf is considered an important spawning ground for yellowfin tuna. Lagonoy Gulf covers an area of around 3,700 km² and is up to 1,200 meters deep.  
Mindoro Strait is a corridor linking the West Philippine Sea, Verde Island Passage and Sulu Sea. This corridor, which connects three productive seas, is a natural pathway for many tuna species. Mindoro covers an area of about 9,735 km2 and is the seventh biggest island in the Philippines.  
[3] WWF Philippines has led the Philippines Yellowfin Tuna Fishery Improvement Project since 2011, with assistance from WWF national offices in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It has received support from the German Development Bank, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and other partners.