Philippines: Tuna movements in Coral Triangle show need for conservation

Gregg Yan Malaya Business 8 May 13;

MINDORO OCCIDENTAL – Satellite tags attached to adult yellowfin tuna show its movements cover a vast expanse of the Coral Triangle and the need to preserve this valuable patch of Earth.

The commercially-valuable yellow fin tuna move around Coral Triangle waters, a known tuna nursery and migratory path, producing about 30 percent of the total global tuna catch.

The movements of four mighty swimmers named Amihan, Badjao, Hagibis and Buhawi are being followed via a species tracking map deployed by the World Wildlife Fund Philippines and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The map shows in color-coded coordinates how far the fish have swam since being tagged off the western seaboard of Mindoro Occidental. (Follow the movements of Amihan, Badjao, Hagibisc and Buhawi at:

“The data we have gathered so far reveal that tuna movements cover an impressive amount of nautical miles a day, travelling back and forth in a general north-south direction from where they were caught and released,” says Dr. Jose Ingles, Tuna Strategy Leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Program.

“While still preliminary, the results signify that to properly manage this yellowfin tuna stock, we need to consider similar or complimentary conservation measures along the geographic area of its movements.”

The tuna tagging project in Philippine waters aims to gather more data on the movements of yellowfin tuna.

“Through this activity, we hope to identify key spawning, feeding and nursery grounds of this much sought-after species and make a case for governments to protect these sites,” adds Ingles.

The tuna industry is an economic driver in the Coral Triangle – which covers the seas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste – and feeds millions of people and provides jobs and livelihood to thousands of fishers and their families who directly depend on ocean resources.

The Coral Triangle – the nursery of the seas – is the world’s center of marine life, encompassing around 6 million square kilometers of ocean. It is home to 76 percent of the world’s known coral species; and 37 percent of the world’s coral reef fish species and commercially-valuable species such as tuna, whales, dolphins, rays and sharks as well as six of the world’s seven known species of marine turtles.

The Coral Triangle directly sustains the lives of more than 120 million people and contains key spawning and nursery grounds for tuna. Its reef and coastal systems also underpin growing tourism.

Increasing global demand for tuna, however, has driven the over extraction and illegal fishing of the species, causing an alarming decline in tuna stocks. Yellowfin tuna are now classified as fully overexploited.

“By tagging tuna, we hope to gather critical information that can help protect the species in specific sites during its most vulnerable life stages,” Ingles explains. “Data collected will help inform management plans for a more sustainable tuna industry in this part of the world.”

A total of 16 pop-up satellite tags will be deployed on large adult yellowfin tunas (weighing more than 70 kilograms) throughout the duration of the tagging activity.

Pop-up satellite tags, which are attached at the back of the tunas, collect vital data such as temperature, depth and light intensity, and are programed to automatically detach from the fish after three to six months when it floats to the surface and sends out information via satellite transmission and into a server. WWF