Philippine Blue Swimming Crab
Fishery Improvement Project
Last update: April 2013
Species: blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus)
FIP Scope/Scale: Fishery level
Fishery Location: Philippines
If you would like more information about the FIP or wish to support the FIP, please contact SFP.
The Philippine Association of Crab Processors, Inc. (PACPI) consists of:
The National Fisheries Institute Crab Council (NFI Crab Council)
- Twin Tails Seafood
- Handy International
- Newport International
- Lawrence Street Seafood
- RGE Agridev Corp
- Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods
- Phillips Foods
- Heron Point Seafood
- Blue Star
- Bumble Bee
- Supreme Lobster & Seafood
- Crystal Harbor Seafood
- Bonamar Corporation
- Mazzetta Company
- Stavis Seafoods
- Quirch Foods
- Carrington Foods, Inc.
Local Government Units (LGUs)
See Summary tab on Philippine blue swimming crab
Date Publicly Announced: September 2010
FIP Stage: 4, FIP is delivering improvements in policies and/or fishing practices
Current Improvement Recommendations:
- Encourage industry to follow the local government’s existing minimum legal size regulation in areas where such regulations exist (Iloilo Province (Provincial Ordinance 2012-093); Negros Occidental Province (P.O. 2003-019); Talibon, Bohol, and Guiuan, Eastern Samar) to hinder the continuing decrease of the “size at first recruitment.”
- Continue to develop a control document that states: 1) the suppliers will not accept undersized crabs and berried females and 2) buyers can conduct audits or inspections to see how the policy has been implemented.
- Support the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on the creation of Joint DA-DILG (Department of Agriculture – Department of Interior and Local Government) Fisheries Administrative Order defining the implementing rules and regulations of regulatory measures identified in the Philippine BSC Management Plan.
- Encourage industry and the government to adopt science-based policies in their efforts to sustain the natural supply of blue swimming crabs.
- Extend technical and scientific support to PACPI, particularly on their research needs and public information campaigns.
There are at least two units of blue swimming crab (BSC) stocks in the Philippines: one is found in the Visayan Sea and nearby waters (i.e., Bohol region), and is assumed to also represent the entire stock found in the inland seas of Central Philippines; the other is found in the waters off the Tawi-Tawi islands in the southernmost part of the Philippines Archipelago (Romero 2009). Aside from these two existing verified BSC stocks in the Philippines, based on the crabbing grounds and the surface circulation patterns of these areas, it could be theorized that there could be more BSC genetic stocks not yet scientifically identified.
Blue swimming crab from fisheries in the Visayan region was the first export product considered for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in the late 1990s. However, the fisheries, the community, and even the MSC were not yet sufficiently prepared to undertake the certification process. Subsequently, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) cancelled the effort.
Key issues in this fishery are:
- The fisheries have grown and expanded rapidly. At present, the resources are suffering from the symptoms of overfishing. Ingles and Flores (2000) indicated that, as early as 1999, gillnet fishing in the Guimaras Strait and the Visayan Sea had already exceeded maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
- The fishing effort is too high and other fishing practices such as the use of Danish Seines, push nets, and compressors are rampant, resulting in catching and landing large volumes of immature individuals and berried female crabs.
- Considered together, the impact of all the types of overfishing (overcapacity, recruitment, and growth) mentioned above may lead to the decimation of the stocks and their eventual collapse if no reforms are made.
- Irresponsible fishing practices also impact the entire ecosystem by catching other species (some of which may be commercially significant), including highly vulnerable species such as large mollusks, sharks, rays, and lobsters (Romero 2009, Flores 2005), contributing to losses of economic opportunity as well as biodiversity.
- The rampant use of entangling gillnets is contributing to the high incidence of ghost-fishing and coastal and seabed wastes (Ingles and Flores 2000).
- Near shore coastal fisheries, using methods such as scissor nets, are catching juvenile crabs as retained bycatch. (Ingles and Flores 2000).
The Philippine blue swimming crab main export market is the United States. The blue swimming crab is also part of the highly valued seafood diet of the Filipino people.
To illustrate, in 2010, the estimated annual total harvest amounted to about 30,030 tons (www.fao.org). The exported blue swimming crab meat volume is about 2,124 tons (BFAR 2010). The US imported about 1,962 tons of blue swimming crab meat (www.nmfs.org). About 92.37 percent of the exported blue swimming crab meat from the Philippines went to the US in 2010; the remaining 7.6 percent may have been exported to other countries. Further, assuming that the average extraction rate is about 18 percent, a rough estimate of 40 percent of the 30,030 tons of total landings of blue swimming crabs were exported in 2010 and about 60 percent may have remained in the domestic markets.
In 2008, the processors and exporters formed the Philippine Association of Crabs Processors, Inc. (PACPI), whose members represent 90 percent of the total Philippine crab export. PACPI invited SFP to provide insights and advice on fishery sustainability by drawing on the example of the process established by APRI in Indonesia. SFP assisted PACPI in the development of their detailed proposal and workplan for a BSC sustainability program. Currently, SFP is supporting PACPI on the science aspect for the successful implementation of their approved workplan. SFP is also supporting PACPI through linking them to academic institutions and scientists whose expertise is relevant to the activities of PACPI.
SFP is also active in supporting the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) towards the creation of the implementing rules and regulations (of the regulatory measures identified in the Philippines BSC Management Plan, in the form of a joint DA-DILG Fisheries Administrative Order Among the goals of the management plan are to implement a minimum legal size of 10 cm, ban the catching and trade of crablets, and provide a platform for more research and stock assessment that will support resource sustainability.
SFP hopes to promote the following key activities for the sustainability of the BSC resources in the Philippines:
- Create a comprehensive map of the resources and related activities.
- Craft a comprehensive stakeholders’ map of the BSC fisheries and industry.
- Promote responsible policies, such as limiting fishing capacity to sustainable levels through caps on the number and size of fishing gears, banning the trade and catching of immature BSC, providing strict protection and implementation of critical habitats.
- Promote best practices (e.g., use more environmentally friendly and more efficient fishing gears, fleets, and fishing techniques; green the supply chain; and establish an accountability check within the supply chain).
- Promote stock assessment studies to update the status of the Visayan Sea stocks and conduct stock assessments in areas where no data still exists.
- Promote scientific studies proving the economic and ecological advantages of using environmentally friendly fishing gears and methods.
- Increase stakeholder awareness and education regarding sustainability issues.
The Philippine BSC FIP is led by PACPI with the following objectives:
- Provide enabling conditions for the Fishery Improvement Project (FIP), including developing the capacity of the Philippine Association of Crab Processors, Inc. (PACPI), and improving data collection and policy to support the FIP.
- Promote improvement of the Philippine blue swimming crab fishery in selected areas (pilot projects).
- Advocate for appropriate regulation and management of the blue swimming crab fishery.
To fulfill the above objectives, PACPI (with the support of SFP) is now working on the following activities:
- Stock enhancement through
- Spawning cages to hold the purchased healthy berried crabs to released their eggs before processing
- Hatchery-reared blue swimming crabs instars to be released in the wild
- Working with the Local Government Unit (LGU) towards strict implementation of banning fishing for crablets and protecting nursery areas.
- Information and education campaigns.
- Actively supporting BFAR on the full process of the Philippine BSC Management Plan adoption.
- Support data collection for the stock assessment.
- In 2010, the SFP-PACPI joint workplan was developed. The workplan consists of several FIP components, including protecting crab nursery ground, protecting spawning area, holding egg-bearing females, stock enhancement from hatchery-reared crabs, stock assessment, and working closely with the BFAR and LGUs for the adoption of the Philippine BSC Management Plan and stricter implementation of the ordinance banning catching and trading of crablets. Using the workplan, SFP assisted PACPI in developing a proposal for the NFI Crab Council and ALLFISH for funding. The proposal was duly approved with a total funding of $154,000 (USD) for 1 year, excluding the “in kind” contributions of partners such as SFP and BFAR.
- The workplan was implemented for the entire duration of calendar years (CY) 2010 and 2011, with the activities focused mostly on developing and improving hatchery techniques, developing and installing holding cages for berried crabs, engaging students for a one-time limited survey of the resources, developing a poster for its IEC component, and actively developing the Philippine BSC Management Plan.
- Throughout CY 2011, PACPI was able on three occasions to release hatchery-reared crabs to the wild. The releases were made in protected areas near the hatchery in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Philippines. The impact of these releases has not been monitored.
- The NFI Crab Council developed an action plan to improve the sustainability of the BSC industry through supporting minimum purchased crab size for the Philippines and Indonesia, which can hopefully be used in Thailand, India, and Vietnam. This plan was made official by the NFI Crab Council on 23 March 2011, and member companies were requested to add minimum size to their sourcing policies that took effect on 1 July 2011. This was to ensure that the harvested crabs have the chance to first lay eggs at least once before being caught. However, this plan was not implemented by PACPI.
- On 1 November 2011, the NFI Crab Council adopted a new sustainability policy that will restrict the purchasing of female crabs bearing eggs or "berried" females. The goal of this policy is to improve the crab population in Indonesia and the Philippines by giving berried females a chance to release their eggs.
- PACPI, in partnership with BFAR-Guiuan, made three releases of hatchery-reared crabs into the wild between May 2011 and January 2012. The releases were done in the waters of Eastern Samar, Philippines, mostly in protected areas (4 sites) surrounding the Municipality of Guiuan. There were about 6,200 hatchery-reared crablets already released. No monitoring protocol has been developed or implemented yet.
January – March
- Commencing March (extending into April) 2012, PACPI initiated a one-month radio infomercial in the Province of Negros Occidental (local radio station).
- PACPI was encouraged by the NFI Crab Council to develop a new workplan for 2012, with a focus on stock assessments, biological and ecological studies, stock enhancement through hatchery rearing, holding of berried individuals, and resource management. PACPI agreed to continue to avail itself of SFP’s support.
April – June
- The Philippine BSC Management Plan process started in 2009. On 18 June 2012, BFAR conducted its final stakeholder consultation for the Blue Swimming Crab Management Plan with key regulatory actions that include but are not limited to:
- Establish a minimum carapace width banning the landing and trading of BSC with carapace width less than 10.2 cm or 4 inches
- Protect immature BSC nursery areas like the seagrass beds
- Limit the sizes and numbers of legal crabbing gears
- Encourage fishers not to fish in waters less than 10 meters deep to avoid catching most of the immature BSC
- Establish closed season or closing of fishing grounds if science warrants it.
July – September
- The Province of Iloilo (one of the Local Government Units with rich BSC fishing grounds in its municipal waters) recently promulgated Provincial Ordinance 2012-093 primarily banning the trade and landings of BSC with less than 11-cm carapace width. The implementation started on 1 July 2012.
- On the 17 September 2012, the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC) adopted the BSC Management Plan, which would serve as the national framework towards the sustainability of the BSC resources in the Philippines. The regulations identified in this Plan would be implemented through the Fisheries Administrative Orders (FAO), with formulation and adoption following the process undertaken by the Management Plan. The adoption of this Framework Management Plan will further strengthen the efforts earlier initiated by the Local Government Units (LGUs). Note that while the minimum size identified in this Management Plan serves as the minimum baseline for the whole country, the LGUs have the freedom to opt to implement a higher minimum size limit.
- Drafting of the Joint DA-DILG Fisheries Administrative Order. This FAO will embody the implementing rules and regulations of the regulatory measures in the Philippines BSC Management Plan.
Click here for a more comprehensive description of FIP results
Ingles, J.A., and J.O. Flores. 2000. Addressing Ecological Impacts of Fishing Gear: A Case Study for the Blue Crab Fishery of Guimaras & Visayan Sea. Presented at the 10th JSPS Fisheries Conference, Bogor, Indonesia.
Flores, J.O. 2005. The elasmobranch fisheries in the SSME-Philippines: a groundwork study towards rational policies for conservation and protection management. Report submitted to World Wide Fund for Nature, Manila, Philippines.
Romero, F.G. 2009. Population Structure of the Blue Crabs, Portunus pelagicus (L.) in the Visayan Sea: Implications to Fisheries Management. Ph.D. dissertation. University of the Philippines, Diliman, Philippines.