Occidental Mindoro province is now the ‘tuna capital’ of the Philippines

POSTED: Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Calapan CitY — The province of Occidental Mindoro is now the “unofficial tuna capital in the country” today.

 tuna photos

And no less than the international organization which deals and studies animal and wildlife behaviour, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recognized it during last week’s staging of “Tuna-Tonelada Festival,” a side event in Mamburao town founding anniversary celebration, which showcased the abundance of tuna fish in Mindoro Island particularly in Occidental Mindoro.

Joselito Tiongson, site manager for WWF-Philippines’ Mindoro team, stated gone are the days when fish exporters and importers have to go to General Santos City in Mindanao to get the tuna fish species they needed for their businesses.

“Today, most of the tuna being exported by the Philippines to Japan, Korea and Australia, to as far as European countries like Switzerland, Germany and United Kingdom came mostly from Mindoro Island, specifically in Mamburao and Sablayan municipalities of Occidental Mindoro,” noted Tiongson.

According to Tiongson, Mamburao town, and sometimes Sablayan, as major suppliers of tuna fish in the country became evident since 2008 to 2010 due to changing wildlife or behavioural patterns of tuna community where the said school of fish drove to Mindoro Strait, a deep ocean part within the West Philippine Sea.

Mindoro Strait is now being dubbed by experts and fishermen in these areas as the new “tuna highway” where the said fish choose the central part of the said sea channel as their breeding ground.

WWF-Philippines and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) officially recorded the highest number of tuna catch in Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro in the years 2011 to 2012, where a total average of 600,000 kilos of tuna delivered around the Philippines and outside the country came from this area.

An average of 200-300 kilos of tuna is being caught daily for five days a week within Mindoro areas, noted Roberto Cueto, vice-president of Tuna Fishers Association of Mamburao.

It was also during this period, 2011, when the local government unit of Mamburao, led by Mayor Voltaire “Bambi” Villarosa, sought the partnership of WWF and formed a special project called Partnership Programme Towards Sustainable Tuna (PPTST).  The project, now three years old and involves not only the municipal agriculture office of Mamburao LGU but also the private sector, other non-government organizations (NGOs) and the fishing sector or fisher folks, is designed to propagate the proper handling or catching of tuna to sustain or prolong the supply of tuna among the fishermen.

Mayor Villarosa is being represented in the project by Municipal Agriculture Officer Sunshine Singun.

Among the concerns of the program, said Tiongson, is to further encourage local fishermen to use handline fishing or kawil system instead of going to commercial fishing which is extensive and destructive on the fish species and sea environment.  Funding from this project came mostly from the German Investment Development Fund, an international funding agency.

Meanwhile, importers from European and Asian countries are said to prefer getting tuna supply which were fished through hand-line method, “because it maintains the intactness of the as well as its good taste.”

One of the biggest tuna exporters in the country today, the Mamburao-based JAM Seafoods, Inc., which is being managed by former village chief Henry Pantoja, disclosed that since the start of this year until now, tuna fish being sold at Metro Manila markets and being exported outside the country such as Europe and Middle East are coming from Occidental Mindoro.  He noted that even exporters and middlemen from General Santos City are going to Mindoro to get tuna for commercial purposes.

Tiongson of WWF-Philippines, for his part, revealed that tuna being sold and exported from General Santos City nowadays are being caught outside the said area specifically outside the Philippines.  He stated fishermen from General Santos go to as far as Palau and Indonesian waters to catch tuna, “because there is longer tuna being caught within the vicinity of GenSan.”

What remain in General Santos’ fish ports are just canneries and collecting stations or processing areas for tuna. (By  JUANCHO R. MAHUSAY)

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