Fish Welfare Scoping Report: The Philippines

By Ethel C. Wagas, Haven King-Nobles, and Marco Cerqueira

Interested in putting research into action? We encourage any organization or industry interested in engaging with fish welfare in the Philippines to contact us. We are able to offer consultation in the development of fish welfare standards, and support in the form of training, endorsement, and overseas trips.  

Executive Summary 

Aquaculture production in the Philippines has been on an upward trend since the 1980s, increasing by over 400% from 1980 to 2018. In 2017, the country was reported as having the 3rd largest aquaculture industry in Southeast Asia, and the 7th largest in the world. Despite this projected growth, there is currently very little work being done for the welfare of farmed fish in the Philippines. A 3-month scoping study was initiated by Fish Welfare Initiative to collect data on the current culture systems in the country and, from these findings, assess the welfare status of farmed fishes. Data was gathered through a series of farm interviews/visits and a review of available literature/studies relevant to Philippine aquaculture and animal welfare. Listed below are the main findings of this work:

 

  • Finfish culture systems. Milkfish and tilapia are the main finfish species cultured in the country. The most common culture system used for rearing finfish are brackish water ponds, marine water cages, and freshwater cages. The sizes of farms are highly varied, ranging from small-scale producers utilizing backyard ponds to large-scale producers utilizing farms as large as 150 hectares.

 

  • Market information. Finfish produced by aquaculture are largely consumed locally. Harvests from small-scale producers are usually sold in local wet markets, while bigger farms with larger production capacities sell their harvest to institutional buyers such as grocery stores and processors. Currently, there is no significant demand for high-welfare fish in the domestic market. However, there are a handful of businesses that advocate and sell higher welfare fish, but the steep prices of these products make them inaccessible to most end-consumers.

 

  • Welfare issues. Data from farm visits/interviews (n=13) reveal the following welfare-related concerns: (1) a lack of water quality monitoring systems, (2) a lack of access to veterinary care, (3) the use of inhumane slaughter procedures, (4) the non-certification of farms, and (5) a lack of training opportunities for farmers. These concerns are most common among the small- to medium-scale producers that sell their produce to local wet markets. Nonetheless, the majority of the farms have expressed their willingness to collaborate with any institution to help them improve their culture system and the living conditions of their fish.

 

There are many opportunities for fish welfare work in the Philippines. The presence of a strong institutional support for sustainable aquaculture practices from both the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can serve as a good foundation for welfare work to begin in the country. Our recommendations highlight the need for a collaborative approach for starting welfare work in the country, taking into consideration the viewpoints and concerns of multiple stakeholders in the aquaculture sector (farmers, retailers, end-consumers, government, and NGOs).

Project funded with support from World Animal Protection courtesy of a grant from the

Open Philanthropy Project.

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