BFAR, private sector, NGOs map out path to sustainable seafood

Press release - February 24, 2017
What will it take to make sustainable seafood a reality in the Philippines?

This was the question tackled at the Roadmap to Sustainable Seafood workshop held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza on February 23 as part of the Sustainable Seafood Week. During the daylong event, around 50 representatives from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), NGOs, the seafood industry, hotels, restaurants, and retailers agreed on the importance of sustainable seafood in addressing key issues such as overfishing, food security, and labor equity.

After assessing the status of Philippine fisheries, the different stakeholders came up with a preliminary framework that identified the gaps at each stage of the fisheries supply chain. These include the need for rigorous documentation of fish catch, and country-specific standards in the processing of seafood.

They also came up with key priorities in conserving seafood resources such as proper eco-labelling, appreciation of the seasonality of certain species, enforcement of labor laws concerning fishers’ welfare, more affordable methods for monitoring fishing vessels, and complete registration of fishers and boats.

“We in the government, particularly in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, are very glad that the seafood companies and our friends from the food and beverage industry are actively working with us in promoting seafood products that are caught through sustainable fishing methods,” said Commodore Eduardo B. Gongona (PCG, Ret), Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries and BFAR National Director. “Our collective effort proves that sustainable seafood is possible and that we can be effective partners in conserving our fisheries resources,” he added.

In his opening speech, BFAR Assistant Director Benjamin Tabios said: “It is important that all stakeholders have a common sense of what sustainable seafood is. We need to look at the entire seafood value chain and discuss how we can improve and standardize documentation and traceability systems as our platform to ensure that fisheries resources are sustainably managed.” He also stressed the need to ensure that sustainable seafood becomes available and accessible to a broader market.

Buyers and consumers

Christian Schmidradner, General Manager of the sustainable seafood company Meliomar, said the workshop was a key step in the evolution of the Sustainable Seafood week. Meliomar has led the organizing of the event since it was first staged last year, and promotes a multi-stakeholder approach in solving fisheries problems.

“The impact of the Sustainable Seafood initiative has to be that we bring proven sustainable seafood solutions to the buyers in the hotel, restaurant, and retail chains. These seafood products that count as responsible solutions are fully traceable, meaning consumers know the exact source of the fish on their plate. These come from legal fisheries, and are not caught with harmful and destructive gear. There are no threatened and endangered species, and no juvenile fish. The best sustainable seafood products from aquaculture do not get external feeds or medication, and are purely naturally grown,” Schmidradner said.

Adam Laker, Area General Manager of AccorHotels Philippines, expressed the hotel chain’s strong support for the initiative. “AccorHotels Philippines is committed to supporting Sustainable Seafood Week and assuring our diners that an ever-increasing percentage of the seafood served in our hotels is sourced from non-endangered fisheries.”

He added: “AccorHotels' dedication to sustainable development issues go back more than 20 years and was crystallized in 2011, then in 2016 with PLANET 21 programme, which encompasses sustainable commitments that aspire to significantly reduce our environmental footprint by 2020. Among these are to achieve a 30% reduction in food waste and to ensure that 100% of our restaurants follow our Healthy and Sustainable Charter, which outlines healthy, high-quality sustainable food models and supply sources.”

Fishers and affordable seafood

Mark Dia, Greenpeace Regional Director for Ocean Campaigns, said: “Sustainable and ethically caught seafood should be the norm, available to all families and not just a niche market. There is no reason why we should not all be working together to achieve this goal.”
He said fishers that pursue environment-friendly practices need encouragement. “Making sure that seafood can be traced back to who, where, and how these are caught, is a step in the right direction. We should be supporting those who are doing the right thing, and helping those who want to do the right thing but are facing limitations,” he said.

Rocky Sanchez Tirona, Vice President of Rare, an NGO that works with municipal fishers, also stressed the need to ensure that efforts should not ignore small-scale fisheries. “Right now, the push towards sustainability is happening in the higher value categories because the customers in those segments are starting to demand it. But the fishers that are more vulnerable, whose fisheries are severely depleted, also need support even if the fish they catch are not as high-end as tuna. We need to come up with solutions that reward fishers for sustainable practices in all types of fisheries.”

Media Contacts:

Paolo Domondon
Director for Strategy, Partnerships & Development, Rare Philippines
+63 917 8603704

Vince Cinches
Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia - Philippines
+63 949 8891336

Yasmine Hidalgo
Director of Public Relations, Sofitel Philippines Plaza Manila
+63 917 3092111