LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Philippines is a land of seafood, with more than 3,000 species of fish and seafood, and an industry in the Philippines is worth more than $60 billion.
But the Philippines has also had a reputation for poor regulation and lax enforcement of the nation’s seafood laws, leading to rampant smuggling and poor quality.
Philippine seafood companies say that since the Philippines adopted a “food security” law in 2000, they have seen an explosion in demand for their products, with some products reaching as high as $50 a pound (35,000 pesos).
“We see demand and we’re able to meet demand, but it is a very small amount compared to the amount of seafood in the world,” said Maria Maria Baca, a seafood expert at the Philippine Institute of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Science (PIANES).
“I think that the government is working hard to enforce the law and it is doing very well,” she told Reuters.
The Philippines is home to the world’s largest population of Asian Pacific oysters, and more than 70 percent of the world supply comes from the Philippines.
But with its food security, Baca said it has become a priority for seafood producers, who want to protect the environment.
“We need to get more fish from the sea, we need to save the fish, we don’t want to kill it,” she said.
“We’re trying to protect it.”
The Philippines also produces a wide range of shellfish including shrimp, mackerel, lobster, cod and herring.
Some Filipino fishermen and fishers are also trying to grow their businesses overseas, although the industry is still not as big as the Asian nations like China and India, where shrimp production is booming.
The United States, which imports about $1.5 billion in seafood annually, is another industry that is also growing rapidly in the country.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the country has nearly 1,500 shrimp and crab farms, with another 600 being added each year.
The seafood industry is growing faster than the agriculture sector in the United States.
“The US is growing and growing, we have a lot of seafood and we export a lot,” said Baca.
The growth in seafood in Asia has coincided with a shift in food consumption from a predominantly vegetarian diet to a more meat- and seafood-heavy diet.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, more than one-third of all people in the Americas consume meat, up from less than one in 10 people in 1950.