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April 4, 2019


I went to two events last week which gave me insights on sustainable fish and what fish to eat. I asked three representatives of the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to get the real score on what fish I should eat. Their answer: the government is promoting farming of tilapia, bangus, shrimps in mangroves and seaweed. I felt sad. When will I be able to eat lapulapu in peace, or tawilis, pompano, and the rest of the fish I grew up eating?

Part of the sustainable seafood offered at Marriott Cafe

The next day, we spoke with Chef Miek and he explained the efforts of Marriott Manila to serve sustainable seafood. For now, we see that they serve Australian Barramundi because it is affordable even if it is imported. It is grown on Australian fish farms, too, just like our bangus and tilapia, but he feels he must first use this kind while waiting for our lapulapu repopulate and also fix its pricing. It’s the law of supply and demand. High demand for lapulapu increases its prices, reduces its size, thus making it expensive for the chef to offer.

He says he is not losing hope, just like how chefs had to adjust to NOT serve sharks fin soup anymore. It took time. Now, it’s a crime to serve shark fin soup. He feels it will just take a little time and people will be aware of what fish they eat and demand for sustainable fish from all hotels and restaurants. Meanwhile, chefs like him are challenged to offer something different since the restaurant scene is very competitive. How to compete while being sustainable as a company? He served us Barramundi from Australia, Selva Shrimps from mangroves of Vietnam and Abalone from a source I forgot to verify. They had these seafood among the new menu items at Man Ho.

So, I am still sad that fish, even with our archipelagic country, is hard to come by. Real deep sea fish, like those we had in Sulu or Bicol a few years ago when we could still enjoy these marine resources.

One of my favorites is salmon baked with butter and salt but it is now suspect. I hear crazy news about salmon that is grown in fish farms and why they are very orange in color. I hear they are contaminated.

I grew up eating fish for most of our meals: paksiw, fried, steamed, baked, grilled and cooked in many different ways. I was taught how to dress or debone fish at a young age. How to debone with a knife and fork. How to eat the tail to head when it was super crispy tawilis, hasa-hasa, and yes tilapia, too.

I had tinapang tunsoy for merienda with garlic rice and scrambled eggs. I miss fish…real fish that tastes sweet and not fishy or “mossy”.

Meanwhile, I have to just enjoy these imported farmed fish or my favorite dried fish like Balangay’s Best or the homemade “lamayo” from Coron, Palawan. I think it’s the rabbitfish, lowest on the food chain, and easily repopulates.

I will take the lead of sustainable advocates like Chef Miek. Just slowly teach people what to eat more of and choose sustainably. Let the seas rest and let the fish reproduce first. Avoid “bycatch” by not using nets that catch even juveniles.

Here’s how to help the seas:

  1. Eat only sustainable seafood for now.
  2. Don’t eat juveniles. BFAR and RARE have a “fish ruler” that shows you what size fish is old enough and which are too young to catch or eat.
  3. Be a flexitarian. Eat fish sparingly so the demand goes down and prices come down. Substitute vegetables for healthy eating.
  4. Check the sources of your fish. Look for traceability.

Meanwhile, look for sustainable suppliers and responsible establishments that prefer sustainable seafood.

Eating fish never was this complicated, but it is because we want to save our marine resources and leave fish for the next generation.



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