Sea change in the Philippines
Fish and seafood represent an important source of protein for the average Filipino, at around 41% of animal protein intake. But despite a high demand for fisheries products in the Philippines, and extensive aquatic resources, fish is becoming increasingly unaffordable for the country’s poor due to dwindling stocks and increased costs of production. The fishing industry in the Philippines is also vulnerable to the effects of climate change - rising sea levels, increasing water temperatures and changing weather patterns are all likely to have ongoing impacts on the productivity of the industry.
With declining fish stocks (largely due to overfishing and habitat degradation) amidst increasing demand for fish and fish based products, the Government of the Philippines provided significant support to develop the aquaculture industry that in recent years experienced significant increases in total production. In 2009, 49% of fish production was from fish farms, compared to only 18% in 2003.
Building capacity through collaboration
In 2008 the WorldFish Center and the Philippines Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) established a project to strengthen collaboration between Filipino researchers and the WorldFish Center. The project focused on developing capacity in the Philippines for sustainable aquaculture and research and development in small-scale fisheries. Building on the successes of this initial collaboration, the new ‘AQUATECH’ project, established in 2012, enhances ongoing partnerships between the WorldFish Center, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and DA-BAR to develop local understanding of aquaculture technologies and aquaculture commercialization.
With a history of overfishing and habitat degradation, the Philippines’ Government has identified the need to adopt more sustainable fisheries practices. Through funding provided by DA-BAR, the ‘AQUATECH’ project will help the Philippines to develop a local aquaculture industry that is commercially viable, market oriented and, most importantly, sustainable. The AQUATECH project will provide training to Philippine researchers on tools for applying ecosystem approaches to aquaculture. These approaches allow development of the aquaculture industry to meet the needs of the population, while preventing long-term negative impacts on the resources and functions provided by the ecosystem as a whole.
As part of this project, Filipino researchers have opportunities to participate in regional and international conferences, and be exposed to the latest advances in aquaculture technology development and management (including climate change adaptation). Participation in these fora, through presentation of their research results will encourage them to pursue research that is innovative, relevant and of a high standard. These venues also provide important opportunities for scientists to establish contacts with others in their field, not only to share their expertise but also to pursue potential collaboration/funding opportunities.
An important factor in developing capacity is peer-to-peer networking and so built into the project are site visits where WorldFish Center staff will visit sites in the Philippines, and Filipino scientists will be taken to selected WorldFish Center sites that effectively demonstrate sustainable aquaculture development.
Aquaculture with a future
Faced with the impacts of climate change, in a country with history of unsustainable fisheries, the ‘AQUATECH’ project will build the capacity of the Philippines to develop a sustainable aquaculture industry that will be resilient to changes that lie ahead.