USAID backs efforts to raise sustainability of alimasag fishery

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THE United States government, the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Thai Union Group, among others, have signed up for a management plan for the alimasag (blue swimming crab) fishery in order to expand its export potential, the US Embassy in Manila said.

“The US government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is stepping up its support to the BFAR to push for sustainable management of the Philippine alimasag harvested in the Visayan Sea,” the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement issued on Sept. 27.

The embassy added: “BFAR, USAID, the University of Rhode Island, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Philippine Association of Crab Processors, Inc., Saravia Blue Crab Inc., and Thai Union Group signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to improve the ecological sustainability of alimasag harvesting to expand export potential, namely to North American markets.”

The embassy noted that the alimasag from the Visayan Sea is currently rated “Red” (Avoid) by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program “due to unsustainable and environmentally harmful overfishing practices” in the area.

The signatories in the MoU will be rolling out a “national management plan” to achieve “higher” Seafood Watch ratings to further expand the country’s export potential in the sustainable seafood market, the embassy noted, adding that this partnership will engage local governments, private sector stakeholders, and fisherfolk to implement “science-based management” and to “reduce overfishing and protect the alimasag’s ecological habitats.”

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program evaluates the sustainability of wild-caught and farmed seafood commonly found in the US market, according to the embassy.

“The Philippine alimasag industry has an export value of about P3.7 billion ($70 million), the majority of which is sold to the United States, and US demand for sustainable seafood continues to grow. The Blue Swimming Crab fishery in the Visayan Sea accounts for approximately 40% of the Philippines’ catch and provides employment to 8,000 Filipino fisherfolk,” it noted.

The embassy quoted USAID Environment Office Director John Edgar as saying: “USAID is honored to support the Department of Agriculture’s vision to increase productivity and income in the fisheries sector. As a friend, partner, and ally, the US government stands with our long-time partners — BFAR, local governments in the West Visayan Sea, and Filipino fisherfolk — to protect the Philippines’ precious natural resources and support the people who depend on these resources for their livelihoods.” — Arjay L. Balinbin