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Tuna Fishing
by jojo ocampo - Thursday, 29 July 2010, 02:29 PM
Industry in General Santos City

The tuna fishing industry had never been this promising and lucrative since its birth on this side of the earth-General Santos City. Lying at the head of the Sarangani Bay, the city has been dubbed the “Boom Town City of the South,” and considered as one of the fastest-growing cities in the Philippines.

Had it not been for its strategic geographical location and existence of other amenities needed by the fishing industry, General Santos City could not have become South Cotabato’s heart of commerce and trade. Boosted with the signs of prosperity sprouting everywhere,” business has never been better,”. With the advent of the operation of General Santos City Fish Port Complex, post-harvest technology equipment needed to prolong the shelf-life of tuna and other species of fish, are made available, thus playing a vital role for trading and other post harvest activities.

The proximity of the city to tuna-rich fishing grounds including the Moro gulf, Sulu Sea, Mindanao Sea and adjacent Celebes Sea which are known centers of tuna abundance, is great advantage. This location is even pleased with fair weather zone which is not normally visited by devastating typhoons or seasonal adverse weather patterns. Another advantage is the availability of facilities like wharves, canneries and an airport. With these characteristics, the city is truly an ideal base of operation for commercial tuna.

The deep sea adult tuna fish catched by handline or longline ranges from 110 to 150 centimeters in size (Aprieto, 1995).

As early as 1970, General Santos City has been tagged as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines”. The total daily catch of adult and juvenile tuna unloaded in the city can surpass that of any other fishport or even the entire unloadings of all other fish ports in the country combined (Aprieto, 1995). The daily catch is easily disposed for foreign and local buyers. The city, being the sanctuary of seven (7) tuna canning factories with an average daily capacity of 750 MT per day and employs around 7,800 plant workers (GEM) the volume of catch on a per day basis is even insignificant as to the distribution of the market.

As of September of the previous year alone, the total catch has reached a voluminous 5,031, 866 kilos where ’sashimi” grade adult tuna comprises 35 % or about 1,774,922 kilos. The locally distributed adult tuna for local consumption ate the largely 65% chunk and distributed to neighboring cities of Davao, Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Surigao, South Cotabato and as far Japan and the U.S., skipjack for canned markets in Europe and North America.

Fishing Boats

The commercial tuna fleet is usually composed of deep sea purse seine and ring net vessels. Purse seine boats range from 100 to 500 gross tons, with an average of about 250 gross tons. On the other hand, the municipal tuna fisheries is consist of largely of deep sea tuna fisherman catching by handline or longline the adult tuna which range in size from 110 to 150 centimeters (Aprieto, 1995).

Of the total volume of fish landings brought in by the commercial fisheries (669, 597.40 metric tons as reported by the Philippine fish marketing Authority office in General Santos City), tuna species comprises about 50 to 100 percent.

About 45% of the tuna catch are skipjack, about 25% are yellowfin, and about 23%are frigate and bullet tuna. Around 60% of the ring net landings supplied to the local canneries, 35% is brought out of General Santos City to local domestic fish markets and the remaining 5 % is consumed locally.

Tuna longline fishermen catch adult yellowfin and billfish deep waters as an average from 500 to 800 kilograms per trip which lasts from one week to two weeks. The average number of boats that come known to the port on a daily average is about 25 fishing from as far as borderline of Indonesia and Palau Islands. The catch according to the fishermen usually consists of 95% yellowfin, 3% bigeye, and 2% billfish.

Yellowfin Tuna

The impact of the growing tuna industry of General Santos City has been inviting in-migrants seeking employment in any of the canning factories or sashimi-exporters for the Japan market. The rate of population growth has notably increased in an alarming rate of 2.64% per annum for the last 5 years. This means that the city’s population increases at about 10,000 warm bodies per month. The study is based on the trend analysis on General Santos City migration.

Since the start of GSFPC’s operation, unloading of tuna and tuna-like species has dramatically increased. Fish unloading started at the fishport’s market 1 with the recorded volume of 515, 160 kgs., for the month of April 1998, where majority of the catch consists of yellowfin tuna.
Fish unloading dramatically increased on August 1998, when market 2 which caters to baby purseiners and mixed species of fish producers opened, showing an increase in total fish unloading of 118% based on the April 1998 data.
Apparently, another abrupt increase in tuna unloading was noted when the port’s Market 3 accommodating large purseiners opened on March 1999 increasing the volume by 227% compared to August 1998 data.

The captured tuna and tuna-like fishes have been monitored to be delivered to 3 major destinations. These include the canneries, the processors/exporters, and the local market catering the local consumers.

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