WWF-Philippines launches new project for tuna fishers

Following the certification of five Occidental Mindoro municipalities under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) last October 2021, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines launched a new project to tackle post-harvest loss of tuna and income diversification among tuna fishers.

Project Buhay: Tuna Habambuhay, Dagdag Hanapbuhay focuses on sustainable tuna and alternative livelihoods for tuna fishers and women.

The project has two main components – Tuna Habambuhay, which pertains to sustainable tuna, and Dagdag Hanapbuhay, which covers alternative livelihoods.

“The main objectives of the project include helping tuna fishers earn more from their catch by improving product quality and post-processing to lessen wasted tuna, and diversifying their income by introducing viable alternative livelihoods while empowering women to manage these livelihoods,” said. Melody Melo-Rijk, Project Buhay’s Project Manager.

The project aims to help secure investments and capital funding to support these identified livelihoods,  and to share community stories, best practices, and lessons learned to inspire replication in other communities and organizations.

WWF-Philippines has been empowering the local tuna fishing communities in Occidental Mindoro to organize, through strengthening the tuna fishing associations, and teaching sustainable fishing practices in the past decade.

Berny Castillano, the current President of the Occidental Mindoro Federal Tuna Federation Association (OMFTFA) has worked with WWF-Philippines since the early stages of the project. He had always felt that the  fisherfolk sector is an often overlooked sector in the society,with very little support being received from the government. With the help of WWF-Philippines, the OMFTFA was founded, and this led to the creation of the Occidental Mindoro Tuna Management Plan and the Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council (IFARMC) which strengthened the government representation of tuna fishers. WWF-Philippines also conducted a Fisheries Improvement Program (FIP) and other efforts that culminated in earning the MSC certification in 2021, the first in the Philippines.

Despite these successes, tuna fishers still face a multitude of issues that WWF-Philippines hopes to alleviate with Project Buhay. Some of which are the shortage of good quality ice and cold storage, non-operational Community Fish Landing Centers, and income insecurity from increasing costs and fluctuating tuna prices.

A launch event for the project was previously held in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro for the municipalities of Mamburao, Paluan and Sta. Cruz on July 19, while a second run of the event was held in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro for the municipalities of Sablayan, Rizal and Calintaan on July 21. Both events were attended by representatives from the Provincial Government of Occidental Mindoro, Local Government Units of the six municipalities, Integrated FARMCS, Women’s Group Savings Loan Committees, Provincial Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Occidental Mindoro Tuna Federation and Tuna Fishers Associations.

During the launch, Paluan Mayor Michael de Ocampo Diaz and Conchita Roldan, Regional Fisherfolk Director of BFAR’s Mangingisdang Direktor Program, both pledged to support the project and to continue assisting the tuna fishers of Mindoro. Meanwhile, Sablayan Mayor Walter Marquez vowed to revisit existing policies that protect and support fisherfolk and their implementation.

Project Buhay, with the international name of “Mindoro Strait Sustainable and Equitable Tuna for Bankability”, is funded by the European Union through their Switch Asia Grants Programme. The Member States of the European Union have decided to link together their know-how, resources and destinies. Together, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedoms. The European Union is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders.

This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of WWF-Philippines and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.