Sustaining Asia’s blue-swimming crab fisheries


Lisa Duchene, SeafoodSource contributing editor

Published on
October 17, 2010

In the late 1980s, Steve Phillips pioneered fisheries development in the Philippines and Indonesia to export blue-swimming crabs to the United States. Now, his Baltimore-based company, Phillips Foods, along with at least 10 importers, relies on the crab supply from those countries as well as in China, Thailand and Vietnam to produce pasteurized crab and other value-added products sold nationally and to supply Phillips’ 10 East Coast restaurants.

But the fishery may be over-harvested. In the last decade, the crabs (Portunus pelagicus) were smaller than in the 1990s and the fishermen had to work harder to harvest a smaller catch. Both are telling signs of overfishing.

Rather than moving on to an undeveloped fishery — a response found throughout fisheries history — Phillips is leading an effort to create a fisheries management regime for Asian blue swimming crab.

“The worst thing you can do sometimes is disengage from a fishery,” he adds. “That’s not socially responsible. We can’t go in and mismanage their resource and rape their resource and 20 years later they have nothing. That’s criminal, in my opinion. I wasn’t raised that way and we don’t operate that way.

“The thing I need to do,” says Phillips, “is stay engaged in the industry and help the industry make improvements to help sustain that resource.”

To read more about Asia’s blue-swimming crab fisheries, click here. Written by SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Lisa Duchene, the story appeared in the October issue of SeaFood Business magazine.

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