Tuna producers mull fishing suspension due to fuel price hikes

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/08 March) – Tuna producers may suspend fishing operations owing to the spate of oil price hikes apparently triggered by the political turmoil in oil-producing countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Rogelio Lim, Sr., one of this city’s biggest producers of mature tuna for export in fresh form mostly to Japan and the United States, lamented Tuesday the impact of the several increases in fuel products since the start of the year.

“The rising cost of fuel prices is a big burden that’s getting heavier to carry. I’m seriously thinking of filing a notice to government agencies that I will temporarily stop fishing expeditions,” he told MindaNews.

Lim now operates about 30 hand line fishing boats, from a high of more than a hundred units in the past decade. A hand line vessel carries an average of 15 to 20 pakura or smaller boats that catch large tuna using the traditional hook and line method.

For a single large-ticket hand line fishing expedition in the high seas that lasts for 30 to 45 days, the operational cost could run from P500,000 to P1 million, with Lim saying that fuel eats 60% to 65% of the amount.

In this city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” prices of diesel presently hover at the P45-level per liter while gasoline products a few pesos short of P60 per liter for the most expensive one.

“I think it’s better to wait for the good times, or when prices of fuel products will decrease to an affordable level,” said Lim, owner of GenSan Aqua Traders which is into tuna fishing, export and processing.

He recalled that in 2008, doing business for him was quite good as prices of diesel then lingered at the P30-level per liter.

Lim, who is also vice chairman of the Alliance of Tuna Handliners, a group of producers of mature tuna stocks, said that several members of the association have either stopped fishing or downsized their operations owing to the skyrocketing prices of fuel products over the years.

Earlier, Marfenio Tan, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., said that fuel only eats up around 10% of tuna fishing expeditions more than a decade ago.

The steady rising prices of fuel products over the years have significantly eaten the operational cost in fishing expeditions, in effect hurting the industry, he said.

On top of the high fuel prices, Lim said he’s mulling a temporary suspension of fishing expedition because of the climate change phenomenon, noting the unpredictability of the high seas.

Before, the fishermen could identify the month when the waves would be big but that’s not the case anymore now and that’s disturbing, he said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)