What does it take to get a sustainably caught piece of fish from a coastal community all the way to your plate at a restaurant? More than you might realize.
Held from February 20-26, the Second Annual Sustainable Seafood Week in the Philippines convened representatives from diverse public and private sector organizations, ranging from high-end hotels and restaurants to seafood businesses to NGOs and government agencies. The event raises the visibility and underscores the importance of sustainable seafood to consumers while offering participants the opportunity to share challenges faced and lessons learned in bringing sustainable seafood to market, such as documentation and traceability issues. As Benjamin Tabios, Assistant Director of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), noted, “It is important that all stakeholders have a common sense of what sustainable seafood is.”
The work of bringing truly sustainable seafood to consumers requires a regular commitment on the part of all actors in the supply chain: fishers, processors, hotels and restaurants, and consumers.
Over 40 organizations, including BFAR, Bloomberg Philanthropies, USAID, Marriott, Sofitel, Greenpeace, Conservation International, Meliomar, Blueyou and PEMSEA, took part in the week’s events. The jam-packed schedule featured workshops, cooking classes and even a beach clean-up. Rare took a lead role in the week’s events, organizing or co-organizing three diverse workshops and underscoring the vital role of small-scale fisheries in this marketplace. The first, held with Discovery Primea, a luxury hotel in Manila, focused on integrating sustainable seafood into hotel operations. In recent years, many hotel chains have set quantifiable and public sustainability goals, including committing to sourcing a certain percentage of the seafood they serve from sustainable sources.
The second workshop featured Fishers and Changemakers, a social enterprise which sells dried fish and squid sourced from small-scale fisheries. Fishers and Changemakers’ work with Rare includes a pilot program to label fish sourced from Rare sites. At the workshop, Fishers and Changemakers founder Jesalee Rose Ong described the challenge of knowing whether the fish they buy is sustainable and the importance of working “with Rare [Fish Forever] communities in places like Bindoy and Mindoro to ensure a steady supply of sustainably caught seafood.” The organization’s collaborative efforts with Rare are supported by USAID’s Global Development Alliance.
Rare co-hosted its third and final workshop, “Roadmap to Sustainable Seafood Workshop with Governments, Civil Society, and Private Sector,” in conjunction with BFAR. The goal of the workshop was to kick off the development of a multi-phase, multi-stakeholder roadmap, which will delineate the actions needed across the supply chain to bring sustainable seafood to consumers. This first-of-its-kind roadmap will be developed over the course of the coming year. This is important, because though they have sustainability goals, as one chef in attendance noted, hotels face challenges in finding sustainable suppliers from which to source fish.
As each of these events show, the work of bringing truly sustainable seafood to consumers requires a regular commitment on the part of all actors in the supply chain: fishers, processors, hotels and restaurants, and consumers. Sustainable Seafood Week in the Philippines creates important links between these diverse actors and helps build the excitement necessary to advance this important work throughout the year.