Philippines centre of 'illegal' live reef, aquarium fish trade

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Foreign demand for food and ornamental fishes has made the Philippines the centre of the unsustainable and often illegal live reef and aquarium fish trade worth at least US$1 billion globally, scientists and experts said.

Michael Fabinyi, a researcher with Australia's James Cook University who studied the live reef fish trade in Palawan province for several years, said increasing demand from China and Hong Kong had pushed people to harvest species like grouper and snappers, considered "luxury" food, using methods damaging to the health of the fishers and the marine environment.

Fabinyi, in his study of the live reef fish business in Balabac, Palawan, said the trade is an example of how the East Asian region is "consuming" the marine resources of Southeast Asia, which has to shoulder the long-term environmental and socioeconomic problems of the trade.

Global business

The live fish trade, which is driven by the consumption of the growing Chinese middle and upper classes, is a lucrative global business, valued at about $1 billion, according to Yvonne Sadovy, a marine science professor at the University of Hong Kong. About 150,000 metric tonnes of live reef fish are traded annually, she said.

The scientists spoke in a forum at the 12th International Coral Research Symposium here.

Experts said China's appetite for fresh fish has a devastating impact on the Philippines' food situation and marine ecology.

Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Director Mundita Lim said the practice of Palawan fishers to catch juvenile snappers and groupers has led to the collapse of the live fish trade in the province.

"You should not get the juveniles from the wild. You should let them mature," Lim said in an interview.

Fabinyi said China's demand for these fishes, which are part of the dining culture and cuisine of the Chinese, is much greater than the demand from the Philippines.

Chinese restaurants in Manila, for instance, are not as well stocked with luxury food fishes as their Hong Kong or Chinese mainland counterparts, Fabinyi said.

Higher price

"The most obvious driver inducing people to get involved in the trade is the higher price of live fish, driven by increasing Chinese demand," Fabinyi said in his 2012 study.

"From approximately 50 cents/kg in the late '80s when the trade began, the price of leopard coral grouper has risen gradually and consistently, and in 2011, a good-sized leopard coral grouper in good condition fetches a price of between 700 pesos and 1,000 pesos ($16 to 23)/kg for fishermen," he said.

In some places of the province, the price could shoot up to more than $60 per kilogramme.

Fabinyi said local fishers are contacted by traders and middlemen, who finance their operation. The traders and middlemen, often based in cities like Manila, pay for their boats and fuel.

The live reef fishes are then transported to Manila, then Hong Kong, completing their journey in the Chinese mainland cities, where they are the main feature in social banquets and feasts.

'Focal point'

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Wood, an expert from the Marine Conservation Society, said the Philippines is the "focal point" in the trade for aquarium fishes.

The latest data from 2005 showed that the Philippines exported 5.7 million aquarium fishes to the United States in that year, making the Philippines the world's biggest supplier of aquarium fishes.

Indonesia trails behind the Philippines, and has become the number one source of aquarium corals after the former cracked down on coral trade last year, she said.

"Currently [there is] no evidence of any species collected for the marine ornamental trade being at risk of global extinction, but there is evidence of local depletions," Wood said.

New problems

The trade on food and ornamental fishes is endangering the Philippines' long-term food supply and is posing new socioeconomic problems for the country, experts said. "If overfishing continues, there will be [fewer] fish," Sadovy said.

Sadovy said the highly valued live fish species, which are now in near-overfished state, were traditionally harvested in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). But the fish resources in this area are now depleted, she said.

Sadovy said napoleon fish, which is found in the waters of Indonesia and the Philippines and is known in the Philippines as mameng, is highly prized in China. The fish is now listed as an endangered species in the [International Union for Conservation of Nature], the only reef fish on the list.

Napoleon fish is priced at $150 a kilo, making it a lucrative catch for fishers and traders, Sadovy said.

While fishers who engage in live reef fishing get higher income, enabling them to access basic and economic services, they know that what they are doing is unsustainable, Fabinyi said.

Health concerns

There are also health concerns for local fishers.

Because many of them use cyanide to collect ornamental fishes and unfiltered air compressors, many of the fishers and divers end up with respiratory ailments.

"Moreover, diving for extended periods without proper decompression has led to paralysis-and in extreme cases, deaths," Fabinyi said.

Foreign demand for food and ornamental fishes has made the Philippines the centre of the unsustainable and often illegal live reef and aquarium fish trade worth at least US$1 billion globally, scientists and experts said.

Michael Fabinyi, a researcher with Australia's James Cook University who studied the live reef fish trade in Palawan province for several years, said increasing demand from China and Hong Kong had pushed people to harvest species like grouper and snappers, considered "luxury" food, using methods damaging to the health of the fishers and the marine environment.

Fabinyi, in his study of the live reef fish business in Balabac, Palawan, said the trade is an example of how the East Asian region is "consuming" the marine resources of Southeast Asia, which has to shoulder the long-term environmental and socioeconomic problems of the trade.

Global business

The live fish trade, which is driven by the consumption of the growing Chinese middle and upper classes, is a lucrative global business, valued at about $1 billion, according to Yvonne Sadovy, a marine science professor at the University of Hong Kong. About 150,000 metric tonnes of live reef fish are traded annually, she said.

The scientists spoke in a forum at the 12th International Coral Research Symposium here.

Experts said China's appetite for fresh fish has a devastating impact on the Philippines' food situation and marine ecology.

Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Director Mundita Lim said the practice of Palawan fishers to catch juvenile snappers and groupers has led to the collapse of the live fish trade in the province.

"You should not get the juveniles from the wild. You should let them mature," Lim said in an interview.

Fabinyi said China's demand for these fishes, which are part of the dining culture and cuisine of the Chinese, is much greater than the demand from the Philippines.

Chinese restaurants in Manila, for instance, are not as well stocked with luxury food fishes as their Hong Kong or Chinese mainland counterparts, Fabinyi said.

Higher price

"The most obvious driver inducing people to get involved in the trade is the higher price of live fish, driven by increasing Chinese demand," Fabinyi said in his 2012 study.

"From approximately 50 cents/kg in the late '80s when the trade began, the price of leopard coral grouper has risen gradually and consistently, and in 2011, a good-sized leopard coral grouper in good condition fetches a price of between 700 pesos and 1,000 pesos ($16 to 23)/kg for fishermen," he said.

In some places of the province, the price could shoot up to more than $60 per kilogramme.

Fabinyi said local fishers are contacted by traders and middlemen, who finance their operation. The traders and middlemen, often based in cities like Manila, pay for their boats and fuel.

The live reef fishes are then transported to Manila, then Hong Kong, completing their journey in the Chinese mainland cities, where they are the main feature in social banquets and feasts.

'Focal point'

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Wood, an expert from the Marine Conservation Society, said the Philippines is the "focal point" in the trade for aquarium fishes.

The latest data from 2005 showed that the Philippines exported 5.7 million aquarium fishes to the United States in that year, making the Philippines the world's biggest supplier of aquarium fishes.

Indonesia trails behind the Philippines, and has become the number one source of aquarium corals after the former cracked down on coral trade last year, she said.

"Currently [there is] no evidence of any species collected for the marine ornamental trade being at risk of global extinction, but there is evidence of local depletions," Wood said.

New problems

The trade on food and ornamental fishes is endangering the Philippines' long-term food supply and is posing new socioeconomic problems for the country, experts said. "If overfishing continues, there will be [fewer] fish," Sadovy said.

Sadovy said the highly valued live fish species, which are now in near-overfished state, were traditionally harvested in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). But the fish resources in this area are now depleted, she said.

Sadovy said napoleon fish, which is found in the waters of Indonesia and the Philippines and is known in the Philippines as mameng, is highly prized in China. The fish is now listed as an endangered species in the [International Union for Conservation of Nature], the only reef fish on the list.

Napoleon fish is priced at $150 a kilo, making it a lucrative catch for fishers and traders, Sadovy said.

While fishers who engage in live reef fishing get higher income, enabling them to access basic and economic services, they know that what they are doing is unsustainable, Fabinyi said.

Health concerns

There are also health concerns for local fishers.

Because many of them use cyanide to collect ornamental fishes and unfiltered air compressors, many of the fishers and divers end up with respiratory ailments.

"Moreover, diving for extended periods without proper decompression has led to paralysis-and in extreme cases, deaths," Fabinyi said.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Southwest transport terminal construction start still in limbo

    The construction of the country’s first intermodal transport facility is in limbo as both the government and the winning private concessionaire are waiting on each other before finally pushing through with the contract signing. Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the ongoing titling of the project site for the R2.5-billion Integrated Transport System (ITS) Southwest Terminal should not delay the concession agreement signing, which has been indefinitely postponed since February …

  • Jesuit school confers honors on Deles, Ferrer, Iqbal

    Despite heavy opposition from the alumni and even parents of students, Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan conferred on Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles a degree on Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa Wednesday. The Jesuit-run university also recognized the other major players in the ongoing peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it awarded GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and …

  • Mobile market tapped for saleable items worth P21B

    With more than P21 billion worth of saleable items in Philippine households, online classifieds website OLX Philippines is aiming to tap this market by targeting mobile phone users who could be potential sellers and buyers of second hand items. OLX Philippines hopes to provide better support to mobile users with the OLX app since 50 percent of the website’s traffic is generated by mobile users. “We will soon become a mobile first company,” said OLX Philippines co-founder RJ David in a press …

  • Clark to host drag racing

    Drag racing takes an exciting turn as top guns try to push their respective bids in the third leg of the 2015 Philippine Drag Racing Championship Northern Series at the Clark International Speedway.Former US servicemen William “Bill” Hand and John Ryzia of the Angeles City Hot Rod Association (AHRA)-Garage Power hope to steer their respective American V8 muscle cars to repeat wins to secure solo leadership in their respective divisions. ... …

  • The greatest city in the world

    Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) proudly brought back our flag to the Big Apple when it landed at the JFK Airport last March 15, after an 18-year hiatus. The Manila-Vancouver-New York route 18 years ago was terminated due to an expensive leasing arrangement and the Asian financial crisis. JFK Airport at Queens Borough is 15 miles to midtown Manhattan, connected via the New York subway train system. Consider it normal if you can make it to Manhattan under two hours. …

  • The future of the BPO/KPO industry

    One of the few economic sectors in which the Philippines is a global player is the Business Process Outsourcing/Knowledge Processing Outsourcing (BPO/KPO) industry. According to a recent report of the Everest Group entitled “Global Trends in the Contact Center Market and Opportunities in the Philippines,” our country is the leader in the offshore/nearshore English Contact Center Outsourcing (CCO) market with some 36% share. In the Philippines, the growth has been close to 20% over the last …

  • Ars gratia artis

    The Ateneo Art Gallery, widely recognized today as the first museum of Philippine modern art showcasing works by postwar Filipino artists. Its “pilot,” Ateneo President Fr. Ramon Jose Villarin, SJ, admits that it “runs on the fuel of the generosity and munificence of its donors.”ARTISTS, MODELS, & MEDICIS. Last Monday, 23 March, four recent acquisitions were added to the collection. A Fernando Amorsolo life-size portrait of Liliana de Asis (1952) was a gift of Francisco and Mila de Asis and …

  • Baranda, Dumlao star in Vios Cup

    Defending champion Pauland Dumlao and showbiz personality Phoemela Baranda won their respective heats at the start of the Vios Cup Season 2 held recently at the Clark International Speedway in Pampanga.Dumlao of Team Toyota San Fernando took the second heat of the Sporting Class category while Baranda ruled the first heat of the Promotional Class division to open the second staging of the event organized by Toyota Motor Philippines. ... …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options