First-ever Sustainable Seafood Week to launch in the Philippines

A fisher in Tinambac, Philippines cleans his catch. (Credit: Rare)

This month, Rare Philippines, a grantee of Bloomberg Philanthropies Vibrant Oceans Initiative and USAID, are joining with others to launch the first-ever Sustainable Seafood Week in the Philippines. This effort works to reverse the trend of overexploited or depleted fish stocks in the Coral Triangle.

The week-long celebration, from February 15-21, features events that highlight the key role of restaurants and hotels in ensuring that the seafood they serve is being sourced from sustainable wild-caught and farmed fisheries. Importantly, these hospitality partners are committed to sourcing those species that are available and sustainable, rather than those that may be traditionally served. This necessitates creative chefs practicing a new paradigm for seafood sourcing and consumption. The week’s events include technical workshops, cooking demos, and buffet presentations at the participating hotels and restaurants.

While the waters in the Philippines are rich with marine life, more than 90% of Philippine fish stocks are seriously plundered or diminished, due to overfishing, pollution and destructive or illegal fishing practices. Rare, the non-government organization that has been working with over 35 municipalities in the Philippines, is helping local leaders set up better fishery and protected area management systems, and inspire behavior change among fishers and their communities.

“It’s hard for fishers to change their behaviors—the pressures of earning a living daily are just too great,” said VP for the Philippines Rocky Sanchez Tirona. “But with support from private companies, their customers, and ultimately, the diners who patronize them, we hope to create better incentives for fishers to do the right thing.”

In one of the featured workshops during the week-long event, Rare Philippines will showcase just what it will take for a community of small-scale fishers in Antique to become more sustainable. Hosted by the Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas and The Café at Hyatt City of Dreams, ‘From the Fisher to the Diner’ will demonstrate the challenges faced by artisanal fishermen all over the Philippines, and the kinds of conservation solutions they need to implement in order to reverse the decline in their fish stocks. Recognizing that the market will have an important role to play in encouraging fishers to fish more sustainably, Rare and its partners will lay out a vision for the future—one in which buyers support fishers who fish the right species and sizes, use the right gear, and fish in the right places, and where fishers and traders earn more when they comply with these new criteria.

Proponents of Sustainable Seafood Week include the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, USAID, Meliomar Inc., Blueyou, Center for Sustainability, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, PEMSEA, Rare, Fish Forever, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, together with leading hotels and restaurants such as the Shangri-La Hotels, Hyatt City of Dreams Manila, Marco Polo Ortigas, Marriott Manila Hotel, The Peninsula Manila, Fairmont Raffles, New World Makati, Le Club, Catch, Hooch, Vask, Disciples Escoffier, and Enderun. In a joint statement, they shared the objective of Sustainable Seafood Week:

“We, the participants of the Sustainable Seafood Week, come together to declare our commitment to improve the health of our oceans by pursuing responsible business practices in the sourcing of seafood products from more sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

“The future of seafood is in the hands of people preparing the fish while ensuring that fresh sustainable seafood is available for their valued customers to enjoy. And we call upon consumers to do their share by being vigilant and conscious about the seafood that they are eating.”

Source: Rare, VOI