PH tuna fishing firms’ harvest down by 85%

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/8 Nov) – Unloading of frozen tuna for canned production by Philippine fishing companies has been in a steep downtrend in the first two quarters, but a fisheries official said Thursday the catch is expected to improve towards the end of the year.

From 1,771 metric tons (MT) in the first quarter, unloading of skipjack tuna by local fishing companies at the fish port complex here fell by 85 percent to 271 MT, data from the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) here showed.

Skipjack is generally used in the production of canned tuna, and had it not been for foreign catches, the six tuna canneries here would barely have such raw materials to process, PFDA data reflected.

Foreign frozen tuna landings at the fish port complex in the three months to March reached 11,639 MT and climbed to 15,902 MT in the succeeding quarter, said the data from PFDA, which operates the fish port complex here.

“Fish supplies [for the canneries] have become smaller nowadays,” Mariano Fernandez, president of the local tuna canners association, said earlier.

Previously, tuna unloading in the city would reach 2,000 MT, but lately the volume is between 300 to 400 metric tons per unloading, he added.

But Ambutong Pautong, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources acting director for Region 12, said the agency is expecting the yield of local fishing companies to improve towards the end of the year.

“Some of the fishing companies have already deployed their fleet to a limited portion [of the Pacific Ocean],” he told MindaNews on Thursday.

They have already unloaded tuna totaling around 300 MT, said Pautong, noting they have been deployed just late October to a previously closed international fishing ground.

Earlier this year, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) allocated access to 36 Philippine purse seine vessels to catch tuna in pockets of the Pacific Ocean until February 2013.

Prior to this, the WCPFC closed pockets 1 and 2 of the Pacific Ocean to purse seine fishing to member nations for two years that ended last December to allow tuna species to replenish.

Pautong said that some of the fishing companies accredited by BFAR have yet to set up their payaos or fish aggregating devices in the fishing ground opened by WCPFC to the Philippines.

After submerging the payaos, it may take two to three weeks to attract the tuna and catch them there, he said.

In the January-September 2012 Philippine Agriculture Performance report, it noted lesser commercial fishing efforts from the Soccsksargen Region (Region 12) due to unstable fuel prices, lesser appearance of some species, and due to rough seas during the period. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)