Sustainable Fishing: A No-Nets Approach To Catching Tuna In The Philippines

Fishing yellow fin tuna in General Santos City, Philippines
Fishing yellow fin tuna in General Santos City, Philippines
Madonna Virola

MAMBURAO — In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), those who fish the waters here in the town of Mamburao are using traditional handlines rather than large trawler nets in the deep waters off Mindoro Strait, in a bid to position the area as a Philippine hub of sustainable tuna fishing.

With traditional handlines, or kawil, they catch only the mature and high-quality tuna. "We go out there into the Mindoro Strait, about 300 fishermen in several boats," says the Tuna Fisheries Association's Roberto Cueto. "When we're not catching much, we stay there for days."

But Cueto, who started fishing when he was child, says the area's fishing industry hasn’t always worked like this. "In 1995, there was illegal fishing with cyanide and dynamite," he recalls. "The catch wasn't as good as now. Some people used dynamite and big nets. In 2008, when we learned about the sustainable way to kill and handle tuna and started using it, we started producing export-quality tuna for at least double the price."

According to the WWF, 60% of the tuna stocks are globally overfished, which makes returning to methods such as those used in and around Mamburao more urgent than ever. Half of the tuna consumed worldwide comes from the Western and Central Pacific, with the Philippines being one of the major suppliers of tuna.

The WWF's projects to establish more sustainable tuna fisheries began with European and Philippine partners in 2011. In particular, the goal is to prevent overfishing of the Philippine's yellow fin tuna stock to secure the livelihood of thousands of families who are dependent on the industry for their livelihoods.

In Mindoro Occidental, the WWF is working in 36 different fishing villages along the west coast. Only those who are registered to fish are allowed to do so, and they have to stay within 15 kilometers of their villages.

"We continue to patrol to maintain the safe sea," says senior police inspector Ronnie de Villa, a member of the task force created to guard the waters. "We continue to educate people through seminars and dialogue with fishermen, especially about the laws that protect the sea."

Mamburao is the first municipality in the country to receive a European Union Certification for conforming to all standards for exporting sustainable tuna.

"In the past, we didn’t see tuna as a primary commodity because Mamburao is an agricultural community and also a fishing community, but it's an eye opener to me that our tuna is of high quality," says Sunshine Singun, a municipal agriculturist.

She says groups from other parts of the country frequently visit to learn from them. "They want to know, to learn how Mamburao was able to maintain the quality of our tuna, basically our best management practices in our fisheries."

The town holds an annual tuna festival that showcases sustainably sourced tuna. Those who make their living fishing the waters parade their best tuna catches in decorated floats while villagers dance around them.

Back at the shore of Mindoro Strait, Roberto Cueto says he hopes that more fishermen will protect the seas so that they can continue to nurture people for future generations.

"It's difficult being a fisherman," Cueto says. "It can be dangerous. I didn't really want my children to get into this, but one of them who is a university graduate has bought a boat and is interested because there is good money to earn through fishing now."

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!