By Vina Medenilla
Although the Philippines has long been recognized as the world’s center of marine biodiversity, policies to protect marine life in the Philippine seas from illegal fishing and other human activities are not strictly enforced.
As a result, almost half of the fishery products in the country, or over 40 percent of its wild-caught seafood, come from Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that the Philippines loses an estimated P68.5 billion to IUU fishing every year.
To foster the country’s marine biodiversity and fisheries sector in three key marine biodiversity areas (Calamianes, Southern Negros, and Visayan Seas), the Fish Right Program was formed.
The Fish Right Program is a five-year-long project and partnership between the government of the Philippines and the United States, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and BFAR. The program runs from 2018 to 2023.
In addition to awareness campaigns for responsible seafood sourcing, the USAID Fish Right Program recognizes the vital role of public-private partnerships in making the sustainable seafood movement effective and progressive.
Last May 31, 2022, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), an implementing partner of Fish Right, gathered private businesses and brands that share a common goal of conserving the Philippine seas and seafood industry to make a joint pledge to follow the principles (sustainability, legal compliance, traceability, transparency, and social responsibility) of Better Seafood Philippines, a program under Fish Right.
These collaborations and initiatives are designed to educate the public on seafood sustainability, encourage communities to take an active role in combating IUU fishing, and urge supply chain drivers to implement Responsible Seafood Sourcing (RSS) standards as well as provide market access to sustainably sourced products.
The stakeholders of this advocacy include City of Dreams Manila, Crystal Bay Oysters, Discovery Primea Makati, Farmers Market, Fishta Seafood, Inc., Invisible Hand, Inc., Kilawin Experience, Novotel Hotel Araneta, Robinsons Supermarket, Inc., SeaTrace International, Inc., Saravia Blue Crab, Inc., and Santeh Feeds Corporation.
The aforementioned institutions are committed to ensuring that seafood products on the market are legal, traceable, and ethically sourced.
“Any contemporary Philippine business should engage in responsible sourcing to bring transparency to seafood supply chains and assure seafood legality. This helps protect our oceans and contributes to the Philippine effort to meet the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” said Carina Ong-Tan, general manager of Fishta Seafood, which is the leading seafood supplier in Metro Manila.
The collaborative efforts of these firms will pave the way not only for the sustainable management of marine resources but also for the survival of fishing communities.