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An Appetite for Sustainability

A local firm based in Antique is poised to export Philippine slipper oysters to China within the first semester of the year. It will be a pioneering feat for Crystal Bay Oyster Co., and proof that striving to keep our seas clean is not only sustainable but makes for good business, too. “When we started in the Visayas about 16 years ago, the oysters were no good – they were too thin. We had initial difficulty persuading people to patronize our oysters,” said Colin Buckley in an interview with Manila Standard during an oyster-shucking event at New World Makati to promote the second year of the Sustainable Seafood Week Philippines.

The company currently supplies oysters to at least 80 local establishments, and is set to start exporting to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing in the next two to three months.

Bounty from the sea: freshly shucked oysters and mussels

“Doing it properly was key to improving our oyster production. It is not just about sustainability, but also about keeping our seas clean. If you allow commercial establishments to keep on dumping their wastes on our waters, then our seas become dirtier and our harvests dwindle,” Buckley added.

Crystal Bay’s oysters are self-sustaining, able to feed on microorganisms already in the sea, thus cleaning and improving the quality of coastal waters in the process.

According to Christian Schmidradner, general manager of seafood company Meliomar and one of the lead proponents of the Sustainable Seafood Week initiative, there are more participants in this year’s events, especially hotels and restaurants that account for a large portion of the total domestic seafood commercial consumption.

Seared tuna

“This shows growing importance placed on the topic of responsible seafood sourcing, implemented traceability, legal fisheries, and improvement of fishery and aquaculture management. We started this movement with the involvement of all stakeholders, and with so many more organizations involved, we can draw more attention on the topic,” he said.

“Hotels have a strong responsibility to ask their suppliers where their seafood is coming from. More than awareness, we need people to practice conscious buying. Oceans are getting more depleted and all stakeholders must do our part,” added Schmidradner.

Vince Cinches, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the government should have the same parallel effort as the industry to strongly implement the Philippines fisheries code, which has been amended to address illegal fishing and unregulated fishing in a bid to ensure continuous supply of sustainable seafood.

New World Makati’s oyster martini with vodka, calamansi, ponzu sauce and raw quail egg

“The Philippines is not a country in isolation in relation to seafood issues. We import a lot. We export a lot. The future of how we eat seafood really depends upon all sectors of all the industry – not only from the fishing communities or the commercial fishing fleets, or the government or NGOs, but also in all establishments and consumers,” he said.

For Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Assistant Director Benjamin Tabios, improving and standardizing documentation and traceability systems will ensure that aquatic resources are sustainably managed. 

Tabios also underscored the need to ensure that sustainable seafood becomes accessible to a broader market.

Philippine slipper oyster, best enjoyed with a lemon wedge as accoutrement

Cinches stressed all these efforts are crucial to allowing our seas to recover from overfishing and ecosystem degradation. “Sustainable Seafood Week Philippines, a first in Southeast Asia, shows how the Philippine hospitality industry is serious in their role to address the problems happening at sea, one plate at a time.”

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Topics: Crystal Bay Oyster Co. , New World Makati , Sustainable Seafood Week Philippines , oysters , mussels
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