USAID extends seafood sourcing initiative to ‘kasag’ farm in Iloilo

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is expanding its Responsible Seafood Sourcing (RSS) Program to the blue swimming crabs (locally known as kasag) fishers in an island village in Concepcion, Iloilo.

USAID Philippines Mission Director Ryan Washburn joined local government officials, private sector partners, and members of the fishing community to inaugurate the program’s expansion in an event in Iloilo City on April 18.

“Through the RSS program, businesses can consistently provide quality seafood products while ensuring the health of the marine environment and supporting the livelihoods of local fishing communities,” Washburn said.

The RSS is an initiative under USAID’s Fish Right formed between the United States and the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to promote the growth and sale of sustainable seafood.

USAID and BFAR will collaborate with local stakeholders to establish direct market connections between fishermen, hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets, thereby expanding the market for responsibly-sourced blue swimming crabs, generating livelihood opportunities for fishermen, and promoting sustainable fishing practices.

In the case of Iloilo, USAID said blue swimming crabs farmers from the Igbon Island of Concepcion will be able to supply whole chilled crabs to the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Iloilo City.

“Responsible Seafood Sourcing is the way to go as we endeavor to achieve conservation and sustainability of our fisheries resources while ensuring that livelihood and welfare of fishing communities are appropriately taken care of,” Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries Drusila Bayate said in a statement.

In December 2023, a Public-Private-Community Partnership was established to elevate the rating of blue swimming crabs to yellow, providing greater access to the export market for fishermen.

A hatchery for blue swimming crabs was also inaugurated in the Northern Iloilo State University – Concepcion Campus in August last year, in a bid to revitalize the town’s crab production.

Concepcion has been recognized by the international marine conservation group Oceana as a major supplier of blue swimming crabs in the Philippines, with a local crab processing plant exporting crab products to the United States.