GenSan mayor warns of bleak fishing industry future

"The fishing industry might not admit it openly, but we are now faced with many obstacles," he said.

Industry sources said there has been a significant drop in the volume of tuna catches of fishing companies in the city over the last two years.

Marfenio Tan, one of the city's biggest tuna producers, earlier blamed the drop in tuna catch to global warming and increased production costs.

Tan, however, said that while the drop in production is alarming, it has not yet reached critical level.

"This has become a pattern. There are periods when we have bountiful catch and there are years when production dropped," Tan earlier explained.

But Acharon said the immediate problem is how to solve disputes in international boundaries between the Philippines and neighboring countries, particularly Indonesia.

"Indonesia recently adapted a policy of fish caught in Indonesia belongs to Indonesia," Acharon told reporters.

He said the city government is taking necessary steps to establish bilateral agreements with local governments of Indonesia.

"Our traditional fishing grounds have always been in international waters where international boundaries have not been resolved yet," he explained.

The tuna industry is facing its more serious problems in recent years.

Aside from declining catch and increased production cost, the strong peso exchange rate has affected the profitability of the industry which relies most of its revenues from exports of canned and processed tuna products.

Six of the country's eight tuna canning plant are located in General Santos, considered as the country's tuna capital. (Edwin G. Espejo / MindaNews contributor)