The Philippines

Its archipelago of approximately 7,109 islands with a vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2,200,000 km2 makes the Philippines a treasure trove of marine resources. The country shares its maritime borders with Taiwan in the north, Vietnam in the east and Malaysia and Indonesia in the south. The Philippines is part of the coral triangle which contains some of the most productive fishing grounds in the world. The domestic fishing fleet has landed the country a place in the world’s top ten marine fisheries producers. The Philippines has also always been actively engaged in aquaculture of species like tilapia, milkfish and shrimp. As such, the country is listed as the world’s eleventh biggest producer of cultured seafood and the world’s third-biggest producer of aquatic plants (seaweeds). The country has a total population of 100 million, with a significant portion of the population centred around the capital of Manila. The Philippines is a considerable seafood exporter with tuna and seaweeds bringing in the biggest earnings. Recently the country has gained GSP+ status which makes the country’s export products even more competitive.

In The Philippines
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Species in The Philippines

Click on the species and find out more about the species in The Philippines

Philippines' seafood sector

The total production of fishery and aquaculture products reached 4.2 million metric tonnes (MT) in 2016, of which half (over 2 MMT) was landed by the fishery sector. With regards to the local consumption of seafood in the Philippines, Filipinos eat on average 39 kilogram of seafood per person per year which is about 50% of the animal protein intake. The fishery sector employs a total of 1,614,368 operators of which the lion's share (over 1.3 million) are municipal fishers and 16,947 are registered commercial fishing operators. Municipal fishers are small-scale fishers who fish in coastal waters not far off-shore. These waters (<15km offshore) and fishers are managed by each municipality individually. Commercial fishers, on the other hand, operate on a medium to large-scale with vessels larger than 3GT and they are only permitted to fish in commercial waters (<15km offshore) that are managed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The fishery sector contributed 1.5% to the GDP which translates to roughly US$ 4 billion and 14.2% of the Gross Value Added to the agriculture and forestry sector. Around 75% of the landings originates from marine waters. Additionally, the country counted 226,195 aquaculture operators which produced a total of 2.21 million metric tonnes of produce (including 1.4 MMT of seaweed production), with a value of over US$1.92 billion. The aquaculture sector contributed roughly 0.5% to the GDP in 2015 according to the BFAR' annual report (2016). Aquaculture operators use a total of 253,854 hectares of coastal fish ponds of which 90% are brackish in nature. The majority of these ponds are utilized by smallholders in which both males and females are active. The aquaculture sector is relatively underdeveloped compared to neighboring countries, providing opportunities for further development. The revival of tilapia culture is a top priority of the new administration.

Aquaculture and Fisheries production

Source: FAO (2018)

* Note that the approximate 2.2 million MT aquaculture production includes 1.4 million MT seaweeds

Production from fisheries and aquaculture has been rather stable for the past five years, yet a slightly downward trend can be noticed. Although fishery effort has continued to increase, landings have not increased as most aquatic resources are fully exploited and under high pressure. Aquaculture production has remained stable as most production takes place in fish ponds which are a restricted resource as such. The government does not allow the construction of new fishponds in coastal mangrove areas, thereby the limiting growth of the pond-based aquaculture sector.

Production per species in 2016 (volume)

Source: FAO (2018)

In the landing figures from fisheries we see that smaller pelagic species, like sardines and scats dominate the charts, followed by larger pelagic species like skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna. The landing figures for these species have been stable over the past years except for sardines, which have recently shown a strong decline. The BFAR has immediately taken measures by implementing a closed season of three months for sardine fisheries in important spawning areas.

Interestingly, tilapia are also in the top twelve of landed species. Although tilapia are not native in southeast Asia, the BFAR has been actively promoting the dispersal of tilapia in natural water bodies across the country in an effort to support the livelihood of the rural poor.

In the production figures of the aquaculture sector we see that over half of the production volume are seaweeds (seamoss and Eucheuma). The Philippines has always been a major player in seaweed farming and only recently it lost the top spot to Indonesia and China. Milkfish and tilapia are the most produced fish as they both are very popular food fishes for the domestic market. Additionally, it is interesting to note that although Penaeus monodon (black tiger shrimp) are still in the top ten of most produced species, production never recovered after the first major white spot disease outbreak in the country in 2000.

Seafood export markets

Source: Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre,

The regional markets of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan have always been major buyers of seafood products from the Philippines. Because of red tape and other difficulties, direct exports to China are relatively low, yet a big percentage of the products exported to Hong Kong and Taiwan are immediately re-exported to the mainland of China.

The United States have traditionally been a major export

market due to the previous colonial ties, but exports have been showing a decreasing trend in recent years. This decrease is mainly attributed to the competitiveness and price consciousness of American consumers.

Exports to the European Union are relatively low compared to other countries like Indonesia and Thailand, as the Philippines has few price wise competitive seafood products that meet European standards. Nevertheless, the Philippines is one of the biggest suppliers of tuna to the European Union. Numbers from 2017 show a significant increase, and due to the gained GSP+ status, exports are expected to increase further.

Export product composition 2017 (000 US$)

Source: Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre,, FAO 2018

Over half of the seafood produced in the Philippines is exported, with seaweed (not included in the graph) and tuna bringing in the most money. Due to falling tuna prices and stagnant demand in the traditional large import markets, export of prepared and preserved fish products, mainly canned tuna, decreased significantly the last years, both in value and volume. With an increase from US$ 179 millions

(60,815 MT) in 2016 to US$294 millions (184,168 MT) in 2017, it indicates that the demand is increasing, but that the price is still quit low compared to previous years. There is especially import of prepared and preserved fish to Germany, UK and the US that has increased in 2017.

The second biggest export product of the Philippines is Crustaceans, counting for more than 15 percent (136,708 US$ 000), where fresh, chilled and frozen are the most exported product types. The Philippines is also a major exporter of live fish for the Chinese market with several grouper species dominating the export figures, where live grouper counted for 57,298 US$ 000 in 2017.


Last updated: 01/10/2018

  • Best Aquaculture Practices

    Species Number of Farms Total Volume (MT)
    Shrimp 5 NA

Trade and Investment regulations

The Philippines scores 113 out of 190 on the World Bank Doing Business Index in 2018. Although the Philippines might not always be the easiest to work in, at the same time the country ensures many business opportunities in one of Asia’s fastest growing markets. This section will provide you with all up to date need to know information about trading and investing in seafood in Philippines. The following topics are covered: click the links below to learn more!

  1. GSP facilities and Free Trade Agreements
  2. Setting up a representative or branch office
  3. FDI regulations and setting up a subsidiary company
  4. Taxes and duties
  5. Custom procedures
  6. Arbitration law
  7. Cultural do’s and don’ts

Sector support programs

  • Partnership Program Towards Sustainable Tuna

    The Partnership Program Towards Sustainable Tuna (PPTST) is a partnership between WWF Germany, WWF Philippines, the DEG development bank and partners from the private sector (see Summary Table, Section 3.1). The project works in close collaboration with local partners from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in two regions, and also works with the national authorities to improve fisheries and traceability legislation. The project focuses on artisanal handline fishers in the Philippines who target yellowfin tuna for export to Europe. Most of the products are exported as fresh loins but frozen products are exported as well.

    WWF, COOP, Bell Schweiz AG, Sea Fresh B.V., New England Seafood
  • Artesmar

    Artesmar® is a unique initiative for fishery improvement, dedicated to artisanal small-scale fisheries worldwide. The program recognizes high catch selectivity and low impacts on aquatic habitats as important merits of many small-scale fisheries. Artesmar® addresses the specific challenges of small-scale fisheries and offers a functional framework for stepwise fishery improvement. By creating direct market access for seafood caught by smallholder fishers, the initiative uses market-incentivized processes and socioeconomic benefits as key drivers for the development of more sustainable business and fishing practices.

    Meliomar and BlueYou
  • Rehabilitating the Philippine fisheries sector through sustainable fishing practices

    After Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013, the rehabilitation process of the fisheries sector presented the opportunity to introduce improved practices and help small-scale traders and fish processors add more value to their production. Paving the way for more sustainable development, FAO worked closely with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and local authorities to restore the fisheries-related livelihoods of nearly 18 000 fisher households in the regions of Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas and northern Palawan. Because the Philippines is at high risk of recurring natural disasters, FAO provided safety at sea training and technical assistance to coastal communities along with developing fisheries management improvement plans to contribute to more sustainable fishing practices.

  • STRIDE Innovation for Development Grants for Science and Technology

    The Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) is the flagship science and technology program by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Philippines that will spur inclusive economic growth by boosting science and technology research. USAID/Philippines has launched the new STRIDE Innovation for Development (SID) Grants for Science and Technology and is now accepting applications from Philippine academic institutions collaborating with civil society groups such as non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, people’s organizations, cooperatives, and others for up to 12 months of joint research. One of the priority areas for research is aquaculture.

  • Fish Forever

    The goal of the project is to empower the world’s poorest coastal communities to not just change the way they fish today, but to Fish Forever. This global initiative realizes the potential of a comprehensive, locally led conservation opportunity, where people can simultaneously strengthen local economies, improve food security and protect nature. One of the five target countries in this program is the Philippines.

    RARE, The Environmental Defence Fund and the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California

    In line with the vision of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) vision of inclusive growth and to support the shared objective of the GPH and the U.S. Government to produce transformative impact through their Partnership for Growth program, the five-year (2012-2017) ECOFISH Project will build on progress made under USAID’s Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) Project (2004-2010) toward conserving marine biodiversity, enhancing ecosystem productivity and improving fisheries and related livelihoods in eight marine key biodiversity areas in the Philippines, namely: (1) Lingayen Gulf, (2) Verde Island Passage, (3) Calamianes Island Group, (4) Ticao-San Bernardino-Lagonoy Gulf, (5) Danajon Reef, (6) South Negros Island, (7) Surigao del Sur and del Norte, and (8) Sulu Archipelago.

  • Vibrant Oceans

    The Bloomberg Philanthropies Vibrant Oceans Initiative supports a ground breaking approach to reform both local and industrial fishing simultaneously. Their approach integrates financial strategies to ease the transition to more sustainable fishing.

    Bloomberg Foundation
  • Coral Triangle Initiative

    A multilateral partnership between the Coral Triangle nations, known as the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF), was established in 2009 to elevate conservation commitments and plans of action to the regional and national levels.