Sunday, April 04, 2010

Philippine tuna catch affected by El Nino

Fishermen unload Yellow fin tuna in General Santos City in the southern Philippines. Many fishermen complain of less tuna catch due to the warn weather brought about by the El Nino phenomenon. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / April 4, 2010) – Tuna catch is declining in the southern Philippines as the warm climate continues to affect the ocean’s temperature.

Fishermen said their catch declined the past months and they blamed the weather phenomenon known as El Nino.

Nathaniel Cruz, of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said the warm weather is due to the El Nino effect. He said the prevailing temperature in Metro Manila is between 34.5-35.5 °C. “We expect warmer weather due to the effect of the El Nino,” he said over the weekend.

El Nino is associated with floods, droughts and other weather disturbances in many regions of the world, which vary with each event. The Philippines like any other developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected.

“Our catch is less because the weather is so hot. We have less tuna catch as compared to the previous month. This is because of the El Nino. If the weather is good, then the catch is also good – it is too hot now,” a local tuna fisherman Pedro Reyes told the Mindanao Examiner.

Reyes is one of dozens who regularly unload their tuna catch in General Santos City, which is home to the country’s second biggest fish port after Navotas City in Luzon Island.

And other fishermen also complained about the tuna catch and the warm ocean water that affected their once abundant catch. “I know this situation will not last long, but it is already killing us. Less catch means less money,” said Bernie Santiago, a trawler operator.

Yellow fin tuna – many “sashimi grade” and the size of an adult man - is what the fishermen were all talking about in General Santos City. It fetches far more money than any other fish. And at the fish port, traders bargain with fishermen for the prized catch which goes all the way as far as Japan and European markets.

The Philippines is rank 7th among the top tuna producing countries in the world, both in terms of fresh and frozen and canned tuna.

According to the local government website, the total daily catch of adult and juvenile tuna unloaded in General Santos City can surpass that of any other fish port or even the entire unloading of all other fish ports in the Philippines combined. The daily catch is easily disposed for foreign and local buyers.

General Santos City being the sanctuary of seven tuna canning factories has an average daily capacity of 750 tons.

It said about 45% of the tuna catch are skipjack, about 25% are yellow fin, and 23% are frigate and bullet tuna. Around 60% of the ring net landings supplied to the local canneries, 35% is brought out of General Santos City to local domestic fish markets and the remaining 5 % is consumed locally.

The average number of boats that come to the local fish port on a daily average is about 25 and mostly fishing from as far as borders of Indonesia and Palau Islands. The catch according to the fishermen usually consists of 95% yellow fin, 3% big-eye, and 2% billfish. (Mindanao Examiner)

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