Front row (L-R): Lovelee Anne Soria (Cinmic), Alma Dickson (BFAR), Joan Mae Abarquez (Agri Aquatic Care), Jennifer Gutierrez (Aquatic Ace), Dulce Tobias (Bluefin), Emerald Uy (Millenium), Joyce Guansing (Ozean 8), Jefa Sy (GMC-PHI), Kima Cedo (BFAR); Middle row: Myrna Ramos (BFAR), Ma. Leonora Jagorin (GMC-PHI), Bernal Vilela Lopez (SFP), Carmen Gonzales (SFP), Raffy Ramiscal (Chief, BFAR-CFD), Dir. Isidro Velayo (BFAR RO 9), Rodolfo Calzado Jr. (PM, GMC-PHI), Efren Hilario (BFAR); Back row: Rodney Penafiel (Sanmar), Jose Ruel Selfaison (Triton), Ronnie Romero (BFAR), Romel Sotto (Seachamp), Gilbert Arugay (Seaglory), Frederick Daculan (Crustacean), Allan Victor San Pedro (Triton).

 

The past decades have seen a steady rise in global human consumption of seafood.  At the crux of the issue is the world’s capacity to bridge the gap between supply and demand. Naturally, with the growing demand for sustainable seafood, international buyers and associated groups and organizations have begun supporting initiatives to help transform global fisheries into a state of sustainable management. This situation has given birth to various fisheries certification and eco-labelling schemes, that serve to monitor, evaluate, and/or validate the state of global fisheries in terms of sustainability.

The Philippines produces and exports many other seafood commodities, but particularly notable is the situation of the Philippine Octopus. At present, there is little to no data on stock assessments, nor a consensus as to the stock structure, biomass, nor fishing mortality is known. It is basically uncharted territory.

According to FAO 2018 and Trade map 2018, production and export data for octopus are limited, and there is no information available on catches per gear type or landings per province. There is some export product data available, particularly exportation to US, but this data is not further specified than frozen products.

In 2017, according to United States (US) trade statistics, the Philippines was the second-largest exporter of octopus to the United States in terms of volume (4,204,914 kg exported), only after Spain, and fourth-largest exporter in terms of value ($17,692,487 worth of product exported). According to NOAA, in 2016 the Philippines was the second-largest exporter of octopus to the United States in terms of volume (3,186,602 kg exported), and the third-largest exporter in terms of value ($11.531.220 worth of product exported) (NOAA, 2018). For 2016 the US marked represented 79.5% of the total exportation of Filipino octopus. Notably, the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBAq) recommends to avoid consumption of octopus from the Philippines, mainly because there is no fisheries management nor assessment.

With the proportionate rise of demand and export, and without appropriate data for decision-making and corresponding management scheme in place, the Philippine octopus is obviously on the track to overexploitation, at least for the mid to longer-term. While the country’s octopus industry have not yet felt any direct pressure for supporting sustainability, it has adopted a more forward looking approach.

Together with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the octopus industry banded together last 6 March 2019 for the formation of the Philippine Cephalopods Producers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PCPEAI). PCPEAI was formed to address mid and long-term sustainability problems of the Octopus supply chain in the Philippines. This move was initiated under the BFAR-UNDP project: Global Sustainable Supply Chains for Marine Commodities (GMC-PHI), supported by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) and implemented by the BFAR – Capture Fisheries Division. In the past, only a national crisis would lead to the formation of such a group and once the crisis was over, however, the group became inactive.

This time around, PCPEAI’s inception was a proactive response to attain a sustainable fishery industry in the country. Through the GMC-PHI project and its partners, Mr. Romel Sotto of Seachamp International Exporter Inc. served as the PCPEAI President was accorded the opportunity to represent the unified voice of the Philippines’ octopus industry during the Global Supply Chain Roundtable (GOSR) meeting in Boston, Massachusetts last 18 March 2019. The GOSR is a network of international octopus buyers that regularly meet to discuss priorities, actions and progress related to the integration of sustainability in Octopus fisheries across the globe. It is led by GMC Project partner SFP. PCPEAI presented to the GOSR its proposed FIP that will operate within the framework of the upcoming BFAR-supported octopus National Management Plan for sustainability.

Under the GMC project framework, PCPEAI will be spearheading the FIP and is expected to begin roll-out this 2019, which will feed into the octopus National Management Plan, due to complete by Q1 2020.

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