New Filipino fisheries initiative will benefit a million people, says World Bank

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors May 30 approved a new fisheries project in the Philippines that will positively impact over 1.15 million fisherfolk, small-to-medium businesses, and residents in coastal communities. The US$176 million Philippine Fisheries and Coastal Resiliency Project (FISHCORE) aims to improve fisheries management, enhance the value of fisheries production, and elevate incomes in selected coastal communities.  

The fisheries sector currently contributes 1.3 percent to the Philippines’ GDP and provides approximately 1.6 million jobs (or around 4 percent of labor force), including for low-income families engaged in subsistence fishing. It also provides over 50 percent of Filipino families’ sources of protein.

Despite its importance, the sector has faced challenges with fish stocks declining by an average of 20 percent over the past decade due to over-exploitation, destructive fishing methods, habitat degradation, and negative impacts from land-based activities. Through FISHCORE, the Philippine government aims to counter these trends and support sustainable growth in the fisheries sector.

“This project aligns with the country’s commitment to environmentally sound practices in fishing and aquaculture expansion while ensuring improved incomes for those involved in the fishing industry – including those involved in production, processing and marketing,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. 

“The long-term goal is to foster enhanced community resilience in these coastal regions, which will be reflected in thriving fish-stocks, improved food security, reduced poverty, and heightened competitiveness in key seafood commodities,”

FISHCORE aims to broaden both domestic and international opportunities for fishery products, ensuring a reliable supply of fish for national food security and nutrition, and boosting competitiveness of small and medium fishery enterprises, ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Beyond the fisherfolk themselves, a wide range of people involved in the fisheries and aquaculture industry are expected to benefit from this project. This includes fishing gear and aquaculture equipment providers, cold chain suppliers, seafood processors, and market operators and exporters, many of whom are located outside the immediate project area.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has created twelve (12) Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) nationwide, with the goal of managing fishery resources sustainably and in an environmentally friendly way. FISHCORE will be implemented in two of these FMA’s, namely FMA 6 and FMA 9, which are major fishing grounds on the northwest coast of Luzon, and in archipelagic waters between the Visayas and Mindanao.

“FISHCORE will support the Philippine government in designing and establishing improved fisheries management systems in the selected FMAs’ coastal and municipal waters,” said World Bank Senior Environmental Economist Jingjie Chu. 

“The funding will be utilized to support fisheries management and law enforcement, capacity building, infrastructure resilient to extreme weather conditions, and other necessary investments to balance increasing productivity while conserving the natural resources in these FMAs.”

While the country has large potential for aquaculture development, production has declined by around 10 percent over the last decade. Additionally, each year between 20–40 percent of total fish caught and farmed is lost due to poor post-harvest practices. 

To reduce these losses, FISHCORE will support investments to expand aquaculture and fish farming, and increase the value to fishery products, which will ultimately raise the income of fishing and fish farming organizations. It will also support the formation of businesses among fishers’ associations, provide livelihood grants to eligible beneficiaries, and support vocational training programs for livelihood diversification.

Photo credit: iStock/ h3ct02

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