GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 February) — The year-on-year unloading of tuna stocks at the fish port complex here was on a downtrend, a trend attributed on Monday to last year’s ban on purse seine fishing in portions of the Pacific Ocean and the El Nino phenomenon.
Volume dropped at this city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines, in 2010 for fresh and frozen tuna stocks by about 1.5% to 98,276,518 kg from 99,733,827 kg the previous year, data from the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority showed.
The PFDA report did not indicate the value of tuna stocks that were unloaded here for export in fresh form and those used by the six canneries based in the city.
“The local tuna industry has expected a decline in tuna catches downloaded at the fish port because of the dry spell and the ban imposed by the WCPFC [Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission],” Bayani Fredeluces, executive director of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. told MindaNews.
The WCPFC, which counts the Philippines as a member, imposed the two-year ban on purse seine fishing starting on January 1, 2010.
At least 9,000 workers in the local fishing industry have lost their jobs because of the ban, records from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources earlier showed.
WCPFC has adopted the ban on purse seine fishing in the high seas of the western and central areas of the Pacific Ocean to give the severely endangered tuna species yellowfin and bigeye a chance to recover.
The banned fishing method employs boats with massive nets that ensnare schools of fish and bags juveniles too. The ban exempts the handline fishing method, which is more selective and therefore considered sustainable.
Fredeluces said that some 36 sets of catchers owned by local fishing companies have been affected by the ban, some of them cutting the days of fishing expedition.
Paris Ayon, the local PFDA chief for food safety, said the bulk of tuna unloading at the fish port has been dominated by foreign vessels. Their frozen tuna catches are the ones used by the canneries.
“The fish port is now capable of handling large vessels operated mostly by foreigners,” he said in a separate interview.
In 2010, foreign fishing vessels brought in 70,529,547 kg from 72,557,820 kg the previous year, while tuna caught by local fishing companies account for about 15% of the total annual unloading, the PFDA data showed.
Completion of the new wharf servicing foreign vessels was completed in 2008 in line with the modernization of the city’s fish port that started more than five years ago.
The modernization of the fish port complex cost about $26 million, the fund coming from a loan agreement between the Department of Finance and the Chinese government. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)