The live fish for food trade has brought prosperity to many small fishing communities in the Philippines, driven by huge demand in Hong Kong and mainland China. But destructive methods including the use of cyanide to stun fish is damaging ecosystems and decimating stocks of certain species like Grouper.
The leopard Coral Grouper is considered to be among the high-value species in Live Reef Fish (LRF) trade. The Philippines contributes more than 30% to the total supply of Leopard Coral Grouper exported to Hong Kong, where demand seems to be highest. Because of the attractive price, the Leopard coralgrouper has become the preferred species of farmers. And because of the high demand, it has also become one the species most susceptible to being overfished. The danger of depletion is further heightened because smaller fish – even those that have not yet reached their reproductive stage – are caught, and unsustainable practices – such as cyanide fishing – are implemented.
Palawan supplies at least half of the production destined for the LRF market. Around 16 of its 23 municipalities are documented as LRF sources. Five, of which one is Taytay, are both harvest areas and transfer points. The long-term goal of the municipal government of Taytay is to improve the livelihoods and industries of Taytayeños, while conserving and enhancing the production capacity of its natural resources. Research and studies continue to enhance policies on the LRF, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and the Fishery Code. Some major steps include:
• The designation of marine zones, including core or “no-touch” zones that are important to ecological processes, fishery reserves, community-managed MPAs, mariculture areas, recreational areas, and multiple use zones.
• The required registration of all fishers, fishing boats and equipment.
• Working towards sustainable management of fisheries, through such devices as a traceability and certification system for all marine products coming from Taytay, to ensure that the means of collection or rearing are legal and environment-friendly, and the products are sourced from a managed area.