Your fish is your future
Lying within the global center of marine biodiversity, the Philippines is one of the world’s top-fish producing countries, and millions of Filipinos derive their livelihood from fishing. However, these rich and precious resources are declining rapidly, with research showing that 10 of the country’s 13 major fishing grounds are already under threat due to overfishing, destructive fishing practices, habitat degradation, pollution, improper waste disposal, and extreme weather. It is estimated that the Philippines loses nearly P68.5 billion a year to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, a trend that affects the country’s economic development through lost revenue and unrealized opportunities for local fishermen and associated seafood industries. With fish making up the major protein source in the Filipino diet, this decline in fish stocks also has implications for the country’s food security, particularly for the nearly 52 percent of fisherfolk who already live beneath the poverty line. Illegal fishing practices also put law-abiding fishers and seafood producers at a disadvantage in both the domestic and global marketplace. As we observe the International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing on June 5, I’d like to thank our Philippine partners for working with us to address the threats posed by illegal fishing and to protect our marine resources for future generations. For over three decades, the US government has worked closely with the Philippine government and local partners to achieve our shared goal of sustainable fisheries and healthy marine ecosystems. For example, the US Agency for International Development’s five-year EcoFish Project worked with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and local governments to increase the number and weight of fish by 24 percent in focus sites. USAID’s new P1.3 billion, five-year Fish Right project, launched in 2018, works with BFAR, DENR, and a consortium of local partners to address biodiversity threats and increase fish biomass in select marine biodiversity areas in the Philippines. Building on the gains of previous USAID-supported coastal, marine, and biodiversity conservation projects that introduced an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, the Fish Right partnership promotes the sustainable use of critical coastal and marine resources, enhances the resilience of these resources, and improves the ability of Philippine authorities to sustainably manage fisheries—for the benefit of all Filipinos. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has partnered with other US agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to develop and implement capacity-building programs for managers of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This effort will continue to train new MPA managers to more effectively address threats to Philippine marine resources. Recognizing the important role law enforcement plays in combatting illegal fishing and protecting marine resources, Philippine law enforcement officers have collaborated with US experts to better utilize sophisticated satellite data to detect boats fishing illegally in Philippine waters and to prevent and deter illegal fishing. We have helped to train nearly 100 officers and inspectors from BFAR and the Philippine Coast Guard on practical law enforcement techniques, such as how to board foreign fishing vessels, conduct comprehensive fisheries inspections, and draft briefings and affidavits for prosecutors.