USAID, partners host first responsible seafood summit to advance sustainable fisheries in PHL

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Thursday (Sept 14) hosted the first Responsible Seafood Summit, gathering over 200 representatives from the seafood industry, civil society organizations, and government agencies at the Novotel Manila Araneta City.

Kickstarting the official celebration of the 60th Philippine Fish Conservation Week, the event served as a platform for industry players and other stakeholders to discuss responsible seafood sourcing (RSS) principles and practices.

USAID, through its Fish Right Program, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), a U.S.-registered nonprofit organization, developed the RSS standards for the Philippines. These set environmentally and socially responsible seafood measures that reduce overfishing and illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The U.S. and Philippine governments are jointly supporting the RSS standards that will prioritize responsibly caught seafood, and incentivize fishers to adopt fishing practices that promote the balance of marine ecosystems and ensure the sustainability of marine resources. This in turn influences consumer’s choices, encouraging everyone to demand and support responsibly sourced seafood products and ensuring sustainable seafood for Filipinos as well as the export market.

“Our ability to increase the amount of seafood that we harvest from the ocean is limited, so we need to find innovative and sustainable business models such as responsible seafood sourcing.  Your work will be the industry’s pathway to legal, safe, and responsibly caught seafood” said USAID Philippines and Mongolia Environment Office Deputy Director, Mr. Thomas Kaluzny.

“As someone who has worked in the fisheries sector for decades, I recognize the importance of this initiative, not only its contribution to the development, protection and conservation of our marine and fisheries resources but to the upliftment of the lives of the people who are most dependent on these resources,” said Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries Drusila Bayate.

The summit also highlighted milestones and industry partnerships developed under the USAID-supported Better Seafood Philippines.  Since its establishment in 2022, seafood industry partners, including Mayani, Fishta Seafood, Meliomar, SeaTrace International, and Bogtong Fish Processors Association, among others, have adopted RSS standards.

With this first of its kind summit, the Philippines is taking a pivotal step toward private sector engagement’s role in improving the ability of fishers and communities to fish sustainably while increasing food security and incomes.

The USAID Fish Right program is a seven-year program that advances resilient and sustainable fisheries management in the Calamianes Island Group in Palawan, Southern Negros, and the Visayan Sea. The program is being implemented by the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resource Center in partnership with a consortium of partners that include PFPI. The program is now replicating and putting to scale best practices from the original sites as well as its collaboration with the National Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the fisheries management areas in the Fisheries Management Areas 5 and 6 of the West Philippine Seascape in the South China Sea.