Working across ASEAN and Coral Triangle member countries, USAID Oceans has established two learning sites—General Santos City, Philippines and Bitung, Indonesia. These sites will support the development, implementation, and testing of the Catch Documentation and Traceability System (CDTS) and will serve as a hub for regional knowledge sharing for replication and expansion.

The Tuna Capital of the Philippines. The Philippines is located along the “tuna highway,” which runs through the Indian Ocean down to the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The strategic location of the city makes it an important area for a demonstration of a sustainable tuna fisheries management plan and a tremendous opportunity for traceability and value chain analysis studies.

Did you know?

  • General Santos City is strategically located near the tuna-rich fishing grounds of the Sulu Sea, Moro Gulf, and the Mindanao and Celebes Seas.
  • The Philippines is currently ranked as the second largest manufacturer of canned and processed tuna in Asia, after Thailand, with a majority of this catch landed in the port of General Santos City.
  • The fisheries sector holds tremendous significance to national and local economies. As such, fisheries management is crucial to protecting the region’s biodiversity and sustaining the viability of fisheries and marine ecosystems.


General Santos’ marine and coastal habitats are composed of the marine waters, mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs where commercial fisheries and municipal fisheries almost equally share volume of catch in capture fisheries. Bitung’s biodiversity has tremendous significance, as evidenced by:

  • Rich and diverse fishery resources with 401 commercially important species.
  • Over 200 of these species are reef-associated and account for approximately 52% of the catch in the Sarangani Bay area, represented mainly by groupers (Serranidae) and snappers (Lutjanidae).
  • 108 are pelagic species, roughly 28% of the catch, and include jacks (Carangidae), herrings (Clupeidae), mackerels and tunas (Scombridae).
  • Holds status as a Special Protected Seascape Management Area to ensure sufficient fish stocks to support future generations and maintain species diversity. The Sarangani Bay serves as a major spawning ground for a majority of commercially viable fish species.


Landing Data. Tuna comprise the majority of fish landed at General Santos City port.

  • Nearly 89% of the 1,012,488 metric tons of total landed fish recorded from 2008 to 2014 in General Santos City noted as tuna or a tuna-like species.
  • 200,000 tons of tuna were landed in General Santos City in 2014, which continues to sharply each year.
  • Increased landings are largely due to a more than 50% increase in imported frozen tuna—from over 48,450 metric tons (47% of landings) during the first half of 2014 to nearly 73,000 metric tons (63% of landings) over the same period in 2015.

Proportion of Fish Landed.

  • Tuna caught and landed in General Santos City are approximately 45% of tuna are approximately skipjack, 25% yellowfin, and 23% frigate and bullet tuna.
  • In 2014, about 47% of the total fish landed in General Santos City were frozen tuna, of which more than 70% of which came from foreign vessels.
  • 2014 marked the highest fresh landings at approximately 101,480 metric tons, a 12-year record high.

Export Data. In terms of volume, the Philippines is top three tuna producer in the world. 80% of Philippines seafood is exported to the United States and the European Union, with a value of approximately US $120 million export earnings per year. Of the catch landed at General Santos City, approximately:

  • 60% is caught by ring net landing and goes to local processing plants, the majority of which are canneries;
  • 35% is shipped out of General Santos City; and
  • 5% is locally consumed.

Supply Chain Overview

Vessel Types. General Santos City Fish Port receives an average of 25 boats daily, ranging from large to medium in scale, and landing fish caught from as far as borderline of Indonesia and Palau Islands.

  • Commercial tuna fleets are typically comprised of deep sea purse seine and ring net vessels.
  • Purse seine boats range from 100 to 500 gross tons, with an average of about 250 gross tons.
  • Municipal tuna fisheries, operating on a smaller scale, use handline and longline fishing methods, catching adult tuna from 110 to 150 centimeters.

Fisherfolk and Fishing Methods. The majority of households in General Santos’ coastal zone are engaged in fishery-related activities, active in at least one tier of the supply chain.

  • About 70-90% of these households depend on fishing for their livelihood.
  • The most common fishing gear types used in the area are hook and line, multiple hand line, long line, troll line, ring net, beach seine, drift gill net, fish corral, fish pots and spear.
  • Small-scale fishermen typically travel two to three hours out from shore on small motorized or non-motorized boats to reach their fishing ground. Fishing time varies, dependent on the type of fishing gear used, but on average is approximately seven hours per day.

Processing Operations. In General Santos City, fish and fishery products are processed both on large and small scales.

  • Large-scale processing includes canned, fresh frozen, and fresh chilled tuna, and is distributed to both domestic and export markets.
  • Smaller scale processing, as performed in coastal communities, typically involves salting, drying, and fermenting for local and domestic consumption.

Priority Challenges

Priority challenges in the General Santos City learning site include:

  • Threats to Biodiversity. Unregulated fishing, unregistered fishing boats, use of illegal gears and unsustainable fishing practices, a lack of data and research on current fish stocks, and challenges in monitoring and surveillance all negatively affect biodiversity in the Sarangani Bay.
  • Overfishing and Dwindling Fish Catch. Recent years have shown a drop in tuna production in the Philippines and decreased availability of other local fish species. Overfishing is compounded by environmental concerns, such as climate change. Environmental changes, such as prolonged dry seasons, greatly affect fishing grounds and marine habitats.
  • Human Welfare. Human welfare concerns are present both on large and small scales, from large-scale commercial operations to small-scale impacts that are felt in local villages and fisheries communities. Ensuring a safe and transparent labor chain is central to human welfare priorities in the learning site.
  • Regulatory and Institutional Frameworks. Many issues confronting the tuna industry have been attributed to the complexity of law enforcement, inconsistent policies, and the overlapping mandates of concerned government agencies.


General Santos City sits, geographically and economically, at a juncture that represents tremendous opportunity to reduce IUU fishing practices and protect a regionally-critical marine ecosystem through catch documentation and traceability. As one of two USAID Oceans learning sites, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), and the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Region 12, will work together to:

  • Develop, implement, and test an electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability System, incorporated within a broader Fisheries Information System (FIS), to trace fisheries products from point of catch through the complete supply chain.
  • Enhance fisheries management through an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management. An in-depth analyses will be performed to support EAFM plan development that links with broader Sulu-Sulawesi Sea Regional Frameworks.
  • Address human welfare concerns to support policy development and intervention. Human welfare scoping will be conducted to better understand human welfare issues, including instances of gender inequality and labor rights abuses in the fisheries sector.
  • Develop strategic partnerships that support CDT system implementation. Engagement with the private sector will secure their strong support, thus ensuring a mutually beneficial and financially sustainable CDT system.

Philippines Technical Working Group

The Philippines’ USAID Ocean National Technical Working Group (TWG) supports USAID Ocean’s activities at the national and learning site level, including planning, implementation, and capacity building.

The Philippine TWG is led by Mr. Rafael Ramiscal,