On January 30, ECOFISH staff kicked-off a partnership to conduct the first ever species-specific assessment in the Philippines for blue swimming crab (BSC) in the Danajon Reef. The assessment comes as part of a larger partnership among the Philippines Bureau for Fishery and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), industry representative Philippine Association of Crab Processors, Inc. (PACPI), US-based National Fisheries Institute (NFI), and USAID through the ECOFISH project.

The blue swimming crab is the fourth most important fishery export of the Philippines. An increase in demand has led to unsustainable fishing of the crab, significantly decreasing incomes for fisherfolk who rely on the crab for their livelihoods. Declining trends in volume and crab size can be attributed to the drastic depletion of BSC breeding stocks since the 1990s.

The partnership among BFAR, PACPI, NFI, and USAID is based on common objectives to increase the sustainability of blue swimming crab fishing, specifically through management of the BSC stock and marketing of the commodity.

Utilizing a grassroots-based tool designed to measure fishery stock, the assessment will evaluate the current state of blue swimming crab fisheries in the Danajon Reef hand-in hand with fisherfolk communities and local government units. The approach will employ simply trained, human-focused “barefoot ecologists,” to measure fishery stock at a local level using the “Spawning Potential Ratio” (SPR) method, a new cost-effective technique for generically assessing coastal fish stock and will allow the partnership to effectively address sustainability challenges facing blue swimming crab fisherfolk.

The SPR approach will address the difficulty of tracking BSC stock in a high number of coastal fishing communities – a current gap in capacity to assess and manage small-scale resources leaves government bodies and universities under resourced to assess and manage fishery stocks on a large scale.

The planned assessment comes in the wake of last October’s earthquake in Bohol, which devastated coastal communities, making fishery initiatives such as this all the more salient.