These past few days, the public saw the country’s premier hotels and restaurants inviting their patrons to join them in saving the oceans by scrutinizing the seafood that are served and consumed.  The decision of the hospitality industry to serve sustainable seafood came after years of relentless campaigning to show that emptying our oceans of life is obviously not the way to go.

Sustainable Seafood Week not only makes smart business sense, but is also important to gain understanding that the fish we eat need to be sourced through means that allow them to still be in abundant numbers in our waters.

The first seafood week happened at an opportune time as the country prepares for national elections - a good time to demand our leaders for plans on addressing the problem of too much large commercial boats robbing municipal fishers of chances for a good catch, promoting food insecurity, and pushing poverty incidence among coastal people to the highest levels.

Despite being a nation surrounded by waters, with more than 50% of our daily animal protein requirements coming from the sea, a quick scan of presidentiables' platforms showed the glaring absence of programs for our fisherfolk and the sea.  Either they can’t comprehend the vastness of sea-related issues, or they are simply ignoring the important role of a healthy ocean to food security, poverty alleviation and national development.

Years ago, Greenpeace and its partners in the NGO community and fisherfolk organizations delivered to Malacañang the "Roadmap To Recovery for Philippine Seas and Oceans", a document detailing steps on how the government can address the problems through:

  • Managing fishing capacity;
  • Improving conditions of critical ecosystems;
  • Improving the well-being of people reliant upon our seas; and
  • Strengthening the management functions of the government.

The strong collaboration by stakeholders during the Seafood Week showed us that such oceans solutions are very doable and viable.

Marine scientists have been telling us that we have reached the maximum productivity of our waters even back in the 1980s, and this historic initiative of hotels and restaurants show us that even allied industries agree.

Let’s make sure that 2016 will continue to be a swimmingly good year for our oceans by electing leaders who will put the sea and the fishers at the heart of their governance programs.

Vince Cinches is the Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia based in the Philippines.