Fishing is a PhP50 billion industry in the Philippines,
contributing about 4% of the country’s GNP. With an annual
production volume of 2.4 million metric tons of fish, it directly
provides livelihood and employment to over one million Filipinos.
Tuna is among the 200 or so species of fish found in the Philippines
that have high commercial value. The Philippines ranks 7th among
the top tuna producing countries in the world, both in terms of
fresh/frozen tuna and canned tuna. In terms of canned tuna export
in the world, the Philippines ranks second after Thailand. In 2006,
the country’s tuna production amounted to 500,000 tons, about 10%
of the world’s total production. The world catch was pegged at 4
As early as 1970, General Santos City has been tagged as the
“Tuna Capital of the Philippines”. The total daily catch of adult and
juvenile tuna unloaded in the city can surpass that of any other fish
port or even the entire unloading of all other fish ports in the
THE PHILIPPINES TUNA INDUSTRY: A BRIEF
•Tuna fishing is a long-practiced livelihood activity among
Filipino fishers, especially in the southern Philippines
provinces such as Davao, Zamboanga, and Cotabato.
•Early accounts of tuna and tuna-related fishing activities
date back to the 1900s during the start of the American
rule (1898-1946) in the country.
•During the Japanese occupation (1942-1944) during
World War II, commercialized tuna fishing slowly started
to gain ground.
•In the 1950s, American fish packers began to explore
the possibility of sourcing tuna from the Philippines.
•To bridge the gap between supply and demand, there
were several attempts by local fishing corporations to
venture into tuna fishing to fill up the American demand.
•As a result of growing orders from American importers,
local fishing corporations with substantial capital started
to get organized during the 1960s, and financed small
fishers using hand liners and trolls in southern Mindanao
to catch tuna. Fishers from the provinces of central
Philippines (Visayas) were contracted to go to deeper
waters. The average fishing group consisted of 200
•The proliferation of companies that bought tuna for
export to the US continued in Zamboanga City until the
early 1970s, increasing the total exports from
841 tonnes in 1969 to 11,376 tonnes in 1970
•As the tuna industry in Zamboanga City experienced a
break in business operations due to the closure of several
local shippers in the 1970s, General
Santos City was gearing up to replace Zamboanga as the
next tuna hub in southern Philippines. The tuna boom in
General Santos was spurred by the arrival, in the mid-
1970s, of Japanese traders looking for new supplies of
sashimi-grade yellow fin tuna.
•Almost simultaneous with the opening of the Japanese
sashimi market in the
1970s was the introduction and successful use of the fish
aggregating device (FAD) locally known as payao.
•With a large base of organized tuna producers and the
successful use of payaos, the tuna catch in General Santos
rose. The reputation of General Santos as the country’s
tuna capital started to gain prominence in the 1970s due to
its strategic location. The traditional fishing grounds for
tuna are the Mindanao Sea, southern Sulu Sea, Moro Gulf
Celebes Sea, which is all relatively close to General Santos,
compared to other provinces in the south. The city is
likewise near the major export markets, which translates to
cheaper shipment/freight costs for local exporters.
Utilization and Management
The national fisheries policy framework of the
Philippines is provided by two national laws, namely, the
Fisheries Code of 1998, and the Agriculture and Fisheries
Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997. The Fisheries Code
provides policies regarding the development, utilization
and management of fishery and aquatic resources.
Conservation, protection and sustained management of the country's fishery
and aquatic resources;
•Poverty alleviation and the provision of supplementary livelihood among
municipal fisher folk;
•Improvement of productivity of aquaculture within ecological limits;
•Optimal utilization of off-shore and deep-sea resources; and
•Upgrading of post-harvest technology.
Republic Act No. 8550, cited as "The Philippine Fisheries
Code of 1998" aims to improve the productivity of the
country's fishery sector and provide conservation and
protection to aquatic resources.
The Philippines has been a major producer of tuna since
the 1970s. In 2003, the Philippines ranked fourth in the
world, after China, Japan and Indonesia in the production
of tuna and tuna-like species. In the Western Central
Pacific Region, it ranks a close second to Indonesia in tuna
production, accounting for 22 per cent of the total catch in
the region (FAOSTAT, 2005). Tuna resources are distributed
throughout the Philippine waters. The major production
areas in the Philippines are the Moro Gulf/Celebes Sea, the
Sulu Sea, and the South China Sea. Outside the Philippines,
tuna fishers are also known to exploit fishing grounds in
Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
Indonesia tuna industry
The centre of the Indonesia tuna industry is the eastern of
Indonesian waters. The region accounts for about 80% of the
Indonesia tuna catch, and about 80 - 95% of the tuna exported
from Indonesia comes from this area. This dominant position
has changed since 1986, at least as far as fresh tuna for sashimi
export fishery is concerned, with the Indian Ocean, particularly
south of Java and West of Sumatera, accounting for most of the
Skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) is the principal tuna caught
in the eastern Indonesia area, account for 80 - 90% of total
tuna landing of Indonesia. The four other species of tuna
caught in the eastern Indonesia include yellowfin (Thunnus
albacares), big eye (T. obesus), albacore (T. alalunga), and
southern bluefin tuna (T. maccoyii). Among these species,
yellowfin is the most important.
JAPAN Tuna Industry
The tuna fishery is the most important fishery in Japan in
terms of value. Japan ranked second in the world
behind China in tonnage of fish caught—11.9 million tons
in 1989, down slightly from 11.1 million metric tons in 1980
In 1989, Japan's tuna landings were valued at nearly 2.8 billion
dollars, approximately 20 percent of Japan's total value of
fishery landings for that year. Japan's tuna fishery faces a
number of difficult challenges. Chief among these are: (1)
competition from Korea and Taiwan as suppliers of high-value
tuna, (2) growing international regulations and catch quotas
for tuna in international waters, ( 3 ) lack of experienced labor
for distant-water tuna vessel operations, ( 4 ) high cost of
production, (5) increasing influence of imports on pricing of
tuna in domestic markets, and (6) a sharp decline in landings
by its own fleet.
Japan has more than 2,000 fishing ports, including Nagasaki,
in southwest Kyūshū; Otaru, Kushiro, and Abashiri in Hokkaidō.
Major fishing ports on the Pacific coast
of Honshū include, Hachinohe,Kesennuma, and Ishinomaki along
the Sanriku coast, as well as Choshi, Yaizu, Shimizu, and Misaki to
the east and south of Tokyo.
Thailand tuna Industry
The industry of canned tuna started in Thailand
over 30 years ago. With on-going development,
undoubtedly Thailand has been the no.1 exporter of
canned tuna to the world. Their advantages are in our
long experience of labor administration and complete
public utilities. Most of all, the strong cooperation among
business operators helps balance the plan in the
purchasing raw materials and the sale of the finished
product. Good networks and strong relationships with
sellers and importers also play an important role.
Thailand import frozen raw tuna at over 80-85% of the
industry’s need (approximately 700,000-800,000 tonnage
a year). Consequently, government and business sectors
had numerous rounds of discussions regarding the
possibility to establish a fleet to harvest tuna. This still
hasn’t materialized due to the lack of budgets and good
administration. To rely mostly on importing raw materials
gives rise to instability of both price and availability.
Thailand faces problems of regulation imposed by
the source of products. They are in the middle of
negotiations regarding the free trade zone and how other
countries benefit from this trade. Mostly, it is determined
to use raw materials harvested in Thai territorial waters,
or in the deep sea by ships of Thai nationality/
negotiators, or flexibility to use rules of accumulative
sources within ASEAN. Therefore, relying mainly on
importing Tuna as a raw material into Thailand is to our
disadvantage against competitors like the Philippines,
Indonesia and Equador – countries which have their own
resources and fleets.