NORTH LUZON TUNA INDUSTRY FROM PHILIPPINE RISE (BENHAM RISE)
The Philippine Rise or Benham Rise is a 13 million hectare undersea extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea immediately east of Northern Luzon and approximately 250 Km east of the Northern Coast of Dinapigue, Isabela.
In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf recognized the Philippines’ rights over the ridge. It is designated as a Protected Food Supply Exclusive Zone. It has a rich biodiversity and abundant natural resources. Its great fishing grounds are a safe haven for spawning and its numerous seamounts serve as a nursery zone for all oceanic tuna species including the endangered Pacific Bluefin Tuna.
On July 27 in Dingalan, Aurora, BFAR Central Luzon Director Wilfredo Mangilit Cruz and Mayor Sherwin Taay were actual witnesses as 2 commercial fishing vessels unloaded the day’s catch of almost 4 metric tons of tuna. The municipality of Dingalan has about 300 municipal fishing boats and 20 commercial fishing vessels. Since commercial fishing vessels operate outside of municipal waters, they are better equipped to catch the larger pelagic fishes such as the tuna.
The total yearly production of tuna in metric tons (MT) from year 2017 to present are as follows:
2017 - 340.5 MT
2018 - 563.2 MT
2019 - 667.2 MT
2020 - 220.249 MT (May to July)
Note: peak season is from June to September
Presently, Dingalan has a community fish landing center in Paltic. Zenia Abaya, the focal person for the landing center, has expressed her delight as tons of tuna are transported from the carrier boats to the landing facility. Dingalan also has a simple processing plant that produces limited quantities of tuna belly, panga and buntot, and sliced tuna, all in frozen packs.
RD Cruz mentioned the importance of a “platform” that will serve as the Coast Guard and Naval Vessel station, refuge for fishing vessels during typhoon and a dock for the commercial vessels to unload the caught tuna. The “platform proposal” is with the BFAR Central Office for approval, funding and implementation.
RD Cruz is looking forward to help the LGU organize a fisherfolk cooperative to qualify them for bigger vessels, cold storage, processing plant and other materials, equipment and funding. These will support the operation of a full commercial tuna industry in North Luzon that can compare to that of General Santos in Mindanao. The creation of this tuna industry will surely bring a “masaganang ani at mataas na kita” to the fisherfolk and the community. (Norberto "Boyet" Bajandi - Senior Management Specialist)