The fishing industry has been the basis of sustenance for coastal societies for thousands of years, and a staple in many types of cuisines. Crabs are one of the aquatic commodities in high demand, both in the local and international markets. In recent years, the industry has been given due caution, not as a result of changes in global cuisines and customs, but due to overfishing and mismanagement of fisheries. This eventually produces adverse affects within the ocean environment, diminishes this valuable food source, and significantly increases the pricing of crabs and other seafood. The key to mitigating and, hopefully, reversing this trend is to employ a fairly new concept referred to as “sustainability.” Sustainability is the ability to maintain a certain status or process in existing systems; in this case, the crabbing industry. In recent years, this term is connected to biological or human systems in the context of the environment, e.g. the ability of an ecosystem to maintain productivity for a prolonged period of time.
Overfishing occurs when the quantity of crabs caught is too high and the species cannot replenish itself and sustain its population. As more and more crabs are caught, there are fewer and fewer to reproduce until eventually the numbers are too small to be subjected to commercial or sport fishing. As an example, the present day fishing capacity (number of fishing fleets) is more than double what is required to catch what is needed today as compared to what the oceans can support long term. Additionally, the methods these fleets use are nowhere near sustainable. Technologies like “drift-nets” and “bottom trawlers” have an extremely high level of by-catch, or excess, e.g. fish, coral, shellfish etc. As they move along on the ocean floor, the nets pick up practically anything large enough in their path. Species that are not intended for sale are sacrificed; damaging both population numbers and eco-systems.
According to the American environmental group Greenpeace, in order for a fishery to be considered sustainable, it must “be maintained indefinitely without reducing the target species’ ability to maintain its population. In addition, it must not adversely impact any other species within the marine ecosystem by removing their food sources, accidentally killing them, or damaging their environment.” Another aspect of sustainability is the seafood’s origin; it must be easily traceable. The original boat and corresponding region where the crabs were caught must be known in order to ensure that the catch (crab) stocks and methods are legal.
Today, in part due to the efforts of Philippine Association of Crab Processor Inc. (PACPI) ,our company Phil-Union Frozen Foods, Inc. (PUFFI) joined the Association on year 2009 as a member of the association. We are beginning to learn that environmental resources are limited and quite sensitive to everything that we do. As we start to experience the effects of generations that came before us, we need to make sure that future generations will not experience worse. This can only be accomplished as we become more aware of the ideals and requirements of sustainability, and how to implement its best management practices.