GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Local tuna catch in the first 4 months this year is down by 13 percent although total volume was slightly up due to an increase in frozen tuna imports.
Fresh fish landings at the General Santos City Fish Port dropped 25,849.90 metric tons from January to April this year – down from the 29,702.77 MT figure over the same period in 2014.
At least 90 percent of total fish landings here are tuna and tuna-like species.
The biggest drop in landing was in Market 3 where purse seine operators unload their fresh catch.
Market 3 landing figure was down 3,337.84 MT at 8,296.10 MT or a 29 percent drop in production over the same period.
Yellowfin tuna landings were likewise down 27 percent at 2,444.78 MT from 3,367 MT last year.
At the Market 2 building, fish landing area for municipal fishermen and small purse seiners operators, was however up by 3 percent – from 14,701.84 tons in 2014 to 15,109.03 tons.
On the other hand, frozen tuna imports posted a dramatic 7,790.78 metric ton increase with a total of 45,353.13 metric tons.
The frozen tuna landing made up for 64 percent of the 71,203.03 MT total landings for January to April.
Frozen tuna landings for the first 4 months last year was 37,562.35 metric tons. Last year’s frozen tuna imports was just 54 percent of the total fish landings in the city.
Last year, General Santos City fish port posted total landings of 193,867 metric tons, a 12-year record since fish port authorities began monitoring local tuna landings.
General Santos Fish Port Complex manager Custodio Balaoing Jr blamed prolonged dry spell for the decline in tuna catch this year.
But local fishermen here said Indonesia’s renewed crackdown on illegal fishing has affected local tuna landings.
On May 20, 11 Filipino fishing boats were blown up by Indonesian authorities, together with 30 other foreign fishing vessels that were caught illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.
Most of the Filipino fishing vessels were single-engine outrigger boats engaged in handline tuna fishing.
In February, the Indonesian consular office in Davao City reportedly served notice to the local fishing federation here that they are on the lookout of Indonesian-flagged vessels to verify reports their catches were being unloaded in General Santos.
Indonesian authorities also reportedly used a report from AsianCorrespondent to support it campaign against Filipino illegal fishers.
Only last week, 17 Filipino fishermen were repatriated after spending 2 years in Indonesian prisons.
In February, 43 Filipino fishermen were also sent back home after 6 months in jail for also fishing illegally in Indonesia.
More than 150 Filipino fishermen are reportedly still languishing in Indonesian jails for illegal fishing.
The local fishing industry here has refused to comment on the reports that Filipino fishermen continue to operate in Indonesia illegally.
Several big fishing companies in General Santos have invested in manufacturing and processing plants in Indonesia to gain access to the latter’s fishing grounds.
An industry source who declined to be identified however said they have acceded to the Indonesian policies in vessel manning and flagging.
Filipino-owned fishing vessels issued with license to operate in Indonesian have flown flags of their host country.
They are also now majority manned by Indonesian crew and are registered as Indonesian fishing companies.