Reforming fisheries in the Philippines

The Philippines is the world’s second largest archipelagic state and one of the largest fish producing nations in the world.

More than 5 million people make their livelihoods from fishing, and millions more rely on a healthy and productive ocean for food.

Like many other fishing nations, however, the Philippines is facing an overfishing crisis. Of the country’s 13 major fishing grounds, 10 are overfished. Scientists predict that local fisheries will collapse without quick and meaningful fishery reform.

Collapsed fisheries would be economically devastating for fishing families, who already face higher poverty rates than the general Filipino population. It would also create a food crisis. It’s estimated that by 2040, the Philippines will have to rely on other countries to supply seafood to its growing population.

More fish, food and prosperity

Philippines fishing

Credit: John Rae

It doesn’t have to be this way. From successful reforms in areas as diverse as Central America, the United States and Namibia, we know that fisheries can be turned around quickly by empowering people to fish sustainably.

New research suggests that sustainable fishing in the Philippines could quadruple fish population, feed nearly 25 million more people by 2050 and increase fishing profits nearly 500 percent.

And the benefits can be realized quickly. Most fisheries could be healthy in less than a decade.

The key is for fishermen to agree to adhere to sustainable limits on catch in exchange for an ownership stake in their fisheries. As the fishery recovers, they benefit directly. Scientific studies have validated that this approach—already working in 40 countries—leads to more fish in the water, more food on people’s plates, and more income for communities.

Hard work is already under way

With local experts and other organizations, EDF is already making progress toward ambitious goals in the Philippines. EDF and our partner Rare are working across the Philippines to design secure fishing rights programs with small-scale fishing communities. Three communities—Cantilan, Tinambac and Cortes—have already approved sustainable management plans, with 16 more communities close behind.

Now is the time to seize momentum for national-level change. The Philippines is one of 12 leading fishing nations where EDF is working with local partners to catalyze reforms that can tip the global seafood system to sustainability.

We believe that successful implementation of fishing rights in this crucial region will not only help the people and fish here, but will establish the Philippines as a global model of fishery reform.