2 – 4 May 2009

The need or want to consume live reef fish is enormous for a Chinese. I talk from experience as I am Cantonese and have uncles and cousins who own Chinese restaurants in Manila.  Growing up, every lauriat or Chinese feast attended was a full meal of at least 9 viands per table always with fresh lapu-lapu (coral trout) in the menu.  With more than a billion Chinese all over the world, this high-demand fish need all the help in sustainability it can get.

What is not well known when enjoying steamed grouper with ginger and soy is how this fish is caught. Do we ever wonder or care? The fact is, because the demand is so high and in reality, so insane, overfishing and über destructive methods such as cyanide fishing are used. This naturally abundant species is categorized as NT or near threatened in IUCN 2008 Red List.

What WWF is doing

  • Working with industry to replace destructive fishing practices with sustainable ones
  • Establishing a national and regional trader organization to promote the uptake of best management practices
  • Reducing overfishing of wild stocks by promoting farming of reef fish sourced from hatcheries
  • Promoting increased live reef fish production from sustainable full-cycle mariculture
  • Promoting sustainably sourced fish in restaurants in target Asian cities, for example by developing and distributing Seafood Cards.

Yogi and I aim to follow the Live Reef Fish Trade (LRFT) from reef to restaurant.

The redder the fish, the more expensive it fetches

The redder the fish, the more expensive it becomes

Lei Yue Mun in Hong Kong is a place where locals and tourists have a special night out to buy live coral trout before entering their restaurants of choice.

A day's catch using hook and line. 12 juvenile coral trout weighing 2.2 kilograms

A day’s catch using hook and line. 12 juvenile coral trout weighing 2.2 kilograms

Floating fish cage underwater carrying coral trout. The deeper the cage the better possibility of fish getting red

Floating fish cage underwater carrying coral trout. The deeper the cage is (15 meters) the better possibility of the fish getting red.

About 200 coral trout in this floating fish cage are fattened up until good restaurant size is reached

About 200 coral trout in this floating fish cage are fattened up until good restaurant size is reached

Solar powered light for night security so poachers are kept at bay

Floating cage with solar powered light for night security so poachers are kept at bay

Trans-shipment point with aerated aquariums carrying about 700 coral trout

Trans-shipment point with aerated aquariums carrying about 700 coral trout

In Taytay, with the assistance of WWF Philippines and the local community, we were able to see how fishermen sell their catch, keep floating cages, meet the middlemen and see the trans-shipment point.

The targeted fish is a coral grouper or coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus with colors ranging from bright red to greenish brown.  A fisherman can sell a good size of this fish from 1,200 – 2,200 pesos/kilogram simply depending on the color of the fish. The fish in bright red fetches the highest price and the exact same species in brown fetches the lowest. The taste is the same but Chinese simply see red as lucky, so there’s no explaining to logic about this market.