The DA-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) — represented by Dr. Ulysses Montojo, chief of the Fisheries Postharvest Research and Development Division (FPHRDD) and Carl Jefferson Madrid, science research specialist II from FPHRDD — served as resource speakers during the “Forum on Tuna Sustainability,” which was part of the inaugural celebration of the “World Tuna Day” in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro held on May 2, 2024.

Attended by fisherfolk groups; micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); government agencies; and charitable organizations, the forum aimed to discuss the status of the tuna industry in Sablayan and to outline strategic steps for its sustainable development.

Dr. Montojo presented NFRDI’s R&D thrusts and strategies aligned with sustainable development efforts for the tuna industry. He emphasized the importance of science-based information to identify effective solutions and avoid investment-intensive initiatives that yield minimal benefits. Highlighted NFRDI projects included supply and value-chain support studies, assessment of fish loss and wastage, and the role of the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) in fisheries management. He also mentioned NFRDI’s efforts to strengthen partnerships with the private sector, fisherfolk groups, and other concerned stakeholders for the commercialization and marketing of NFRDI-developed postharvest technologies.

Meanwhile, Madrid discussed NFRDI’s product development projects aimed at empowering fisherfolk entrepreneurship. He underscored the importance of entrepreneurship and product innovations in the sustainable growth of the tuna industry. Specifically, he cited the success story of the Samahan ng mga Kababaihan ng Sablayan (SAMAKA), which emerged from a successful NFRDI project on the processing of bottled yellowfin tuna. Additionally, he introduced an ongoing product development initiative of NFRDI focusing on fish crackers made from flying fish, an abundant species in Sablayan, presenting an opportunity for value addition.

The LGU-Sablayan, under the leadership of Mayor Walter ‘Bong’ Marquez and Vice Mayor Edwin Mintu, has expressed support for a plan to cascade the technology on flying fish crackers and provide a potential processing plant. Mayor Marquez emphasized that this presents a great opportunity for Sablayan’s fisherfolk to optimize the potential of other resources in the area. Furthermore, it will help diversify income-generating fish resources in the municipality, aside from yellowfin tuna.

Attendees of the forum signed Sablayan’s Blue Declaration, signifying their commitments to the conservation, management, and equitable use of tuna resources, seas and oceans, and the welfare and progress of the fisherfolk of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.

NFRDI, through the FPHRDD-Product Development Section, also participated in the “Food Bazaar,” showcasing and offering samples of the newly developed fish crackers for free food tasting. Other activities during the celebration included coastal and underwater clean-up, the blessing of fish storage units and fishing vessels, a tuna parade, a park concert, and various others.

The inaugural World Tuna Day celebration aims to advocate for and raise awareness of the sustainable development of the tuna industry in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. ### (Carl Jefferson Madrid)