Sunday, October 7, 2012

Getting Fishy in GenSan's Tuna Fish Port

During our second day at General Santos City last month, I made sure to include a visit to their fish port, to see their booming tuna industry. This 32-hectare complex contains ice-making plant, various freezers, water pumps, market centers, bank, even a small food court with barber shop for workers.

From Amigotel, I boarded a trike from the market across, for less than 30 minutes of travel. Fare is Php 20/person at a trike that could fit 6 passengers, like a can of sardines. I was seated with 5 fishport workers who are already wearing white rubber boots. The guards at the fishport complex asks for an identification card of visitors, who won't be allowed to enter if they are wearing sandals or short pants.

Arriving at around 6:15 am, I rented a pair of white rubber boots for Php 20 from a food stall near the market center. Before entering the market center, I stepped on a footwash area to avoid bringing any food contaminants.

My arrival time is perfect, as the "lanchas" or transport boats are just starting to unload the catch of their fishing ships. The fishing ships stay on the middle of Celebes sea for at least 2 weeks to 2 months just to catch fish, while the lanchas bring them to the fishport on a daily basis.

The fishes are brought to the port by carts or by individually carrying them. Got to admire those fishport haulers who can carry a tuna fish that weighs close to 100 kg.

The fishes are brought to each stall like the consignacions in Malabon fish port.

Where they are weighed first and recorded, before they are laid on long steel tables. Yellow fin tuna comprise at least 90% of the catch. 

Sometimes, they bring in blue marlins that are already headless.

Later, someone pokes each tuna with a probe stick to get a cross section of the tuna meat near its dorsal fin. The purpose of that is for grading the tuna quality.

See that flesh sample below? The flesh color should be consistent deep pink to get the highest grade, which is for the export market. If the flesh has white or dark lines, it will get a lower grade and pricing.

Then the tuna fishes are marked by each consignacion, according to the grade, weight, and their assigned buyer. 

The fishes are also gutted to remove the gills, liver, and other organs placed on assigned containers for selling afterwards to the local market.

Next step is to wash them with a brush to remove the blood....

Before they are dropped to the large plastic vats with ice inside. When full, a forklift will transfer them to a truck outside the market center. Some fishes go straight to the carton boxes and waiting closed trucks.

It was a unique and educational experience, to witness how Philippines rank no. 7 among the tuna producers in the world, turning between 500-800 tons of tuna on a daily basis. In terms of canned tuna, the country ranks second to Thailand, but only the small tuna gets into the canning process.

I would like to thank the stall owners and fishport workers, who assisted me with all the photo shoots and patiently answered my queries. Like many other Filipinos in the provinces we visited, the people in GenSan are very friendly and helpful.

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