SAM_2112SAM_2103“The chef is always right,” jokes International chef Bobby Chin who visited the Philippines the second week of June as part of WWF’s campaign on sustainable seafood. This funny, lovable chef who began his career in Wallstreet prepared some of his seafood recipes for the press at Hamilo Coast, an environment-friendly resort in Batangas, during Coral Triangle Day last June 9.

One of the questions he is often asked by Pinoys is why Filipino cuisine isn’t world class. He threw back another question in response, “Which Filipino dishes are not Spanish-inspired?” He honestly explained that despite the lack of culinary identity, every good Filipino chef often ends up specializing in European cuisine after graduating from an international culinary school abroad. Chef Chinn’s straightforward, honest response and jokes were received with warmth and laughter by the press in attendance to the Coral Triangle Day celebration.

“Shark’s fin is tasteless,” he adds. “Spend your money on tastier sea food”.

Well, this chef is definitely right especially with regards to promoting sustainable seafood. We must all take the initiative and responsibility of conserving the Coral Triangle by putting a stop to destructive fishing methods and explore alternative food sourcing.

Where does the fish on your plate come from? It is highly likely that it was sourced from the Coral Triangle, the world’s epicenter of marine life and abundance.

Every day, thousands of small fishing boats set out within this throbbing nursery of the seas, whose resources directly sustain the lives of more than 120 million people. However, unsustainable fishing methods have shattered coral reefs and depleted fish populations all over the region.

More than 85% of the reefs in the Coral Triangle – which spans the waters of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste – are directly threatened by local human activities, substantially more than the global average of 60%. Asia’s growing population coupled with an insatiable appetite for dwindling delicacies like shark fin soup is placing extreme pressure on our seas.

Overfishing and illegal fishing are threatening coastal and marine environments, wiping out large populations of fish stocks and compromising people’s food security and livelihoods. Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) stocks for example, are taking a nosedive. The International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC) says that the global population has shrunk by 96.4% compared to unfished levels.

Now on its third year, the Coral Triangle Day is an annual open-sourced event celebrated in the countries belonging to the region every 9 June. The festivities are done in conjunction with World Oceans Day, which is celebrated every year on 8 June.

Set against the majestic blue waters and lush landscapes of Pico de Loro Cove in Nasugbu, Batangas, Chinn kicked off his cooking segment by cooking Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) sourced by hand-line from Occidental Mindoro. Handline is a traditional and more sustainable way of catching tuna, several stocks of which are threatened in the Coral Triangle.

Lastly, to raise awareness about the perils of shark finning, Chinn created a seared snapper head dish with dipping sauce, as an alternative to shark fin soup. About 73 million sharks are slaughtered each year for the lucrative shark fin trade. This high demand for shark fin soup, particularly in China and Hong Kong, threatens the health and balance of global marine ecosystems.

“The worldwide demand for tuna, live reef fish, and other marine products continues to grow – at a frightening environmental cost to the Coral Triangle. Through our partnership with Bobby Chinn and Hamilo Coast in celebrating Coral Triangle Day, we hope to emphasize the need to rehabilitate the Coral Triangle’s reefs from decades of damage and build a sustainable means of livelihood for fishermen,” says WWF-Philippines Vice President for Conservation Programs Joel Palma.

“Preserving the Coral Triangle is a cause that is important to us because Hamilo Coast is located right at the entry of the Verde Island Passage, one of the most prolific areas of the global Coral Triangle,” adds Costa del Hamilo, Inc. Senior Vice-President for Operations Rona Torres-Tan.
The Coral Triangle is home to 76% of the world’s known coral species, 37% of the world’s coral reef fish species, plus commercially-valuable species such as tuna, whales, dolphins, rays, sharks, including six of the world’s seven known species of marine turtles.

Unsustainable fishing, poorly-planned development, pollution, a growing population, and climate change impacts are all contributing to the degradation of the Coral Triangle. WWF continues to develop sustainable solutions that will both benefit local communities and businesses and save one of the most diverse marine habitats on Earth.

WWF-Philippines and Costa del Hamilo have been partners for five years. Since building an alliance for sustainable ecotourism, the two have embarked on various sustainable and environmental initiatives like the declaration of select Hamilo Coast coves as marine protected areas, the deployment of Bantay Dagat units to protect the area from illegal fishermen. WWF’s ridge-to-reef management project helps protect the corals in Hamilo Coast from sedimentation and siltation, and includes the continuous monitoring of flora and fauna to identify and mitigate any such threats.

WWF has also initiated renewable energy projects at Hamilo Coast. Around eighteen of the street lamps along the main road of the residential community are powered by solar panels, and solar power-assisted air conditioners have been installed in the chapel. Waste management activities of employees and residents are closely monitored, with guidelines set to ensure compliance with the waste-management standards of global eco-tourism certification bodies.

For more information on the sustainable tourism projects of WWF-Philippines, visit http://www.wwf.org.ph. To know more about options for full-time living at Hamilo Coast, call (+63 2) 945-8000, or visit http://www.hamilocoast.com.

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