Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project

Most Philippine coastal areas are overfished.  This has led to smaller fish sizes, shifts in species composition, steep declines in fish abundance, and lower catches and incomes of fishers—a situation compounded by climate change. As the climate changes, warmer oceans negatively affect how coral reefs and related ecosystems nurture fisheries and erode the natural protection they provide coastal communities. As oceanographic conditions change, so will fish distribution, migration patterns and marine food web.

However, fisheries remain highly important to the Philippine economy, particularly to poor communities that depend on small-scale fishing for livelihood. Even with catch rates that are among the lowest in the world, the country ranks 8th worldwide in total fish production. Fish and fish-based products also account for 80% of the protein requirements of Filipinos.  Clearly, improved management of fisheries holds tremendous potential benefits for fishers and coastal communities. The growth of ecosystem approaches to fisheries management offers hope for reversing the decline of Philippine fisheries.

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 MKBAs 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.


The ECOFISH approach is guided by five interrelated principles and the basic assumption that empowering local institutions and working with other stakeholders is fundamental to achieving significant impact in the eight MKBAs and at a national level.

Develop inter-government collaboration for EAFM. ECOFISH will support and foster alliances among local governments and other stakeholders to promote and apply EAFM.

Develop EAFM capacities of local governments and other stakeholders. ECOFISH will facilitate training and mentoring of government, NGOs and academic institutions on sustainable fisheries management; support science and technology capacity development for baseline assessment and monitoring, and technical assistance for the development of policies and plans on EAFM.

Apply innovative EAFM principles and best practices in eight MKBAs. Working with a broad array of stakeholders, ECOFISH will identify focal areas and expansion areas within each MKBA and tailor its assistance on site-based gaps on sustainable fisheries management.

Build and leverage EAFM champions and constituencies. ECOFISH will develop and implement an education and outreach plan to promote sustainable fisheries among local governments, fishing communities and other stakeholders, and engage new champions and constituencies, especially from the private sector.  Public-private partnerships will be established to support the goals of sustainable fisheries management. 

Mainstream gender. ECOFISH embraces the Gender and Development approach and will use it in project implementation, building on past USAID efforts that improve gender relations and enhance women’s status in fisheries.


Conserve marine biodiversity, enhance ecosystem productivity and improve fisheries and related livelihoods in eight marine key biodiversity areas (MKBAs) using an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management (EAFM) to achieve social, economic and ecological sustainability.


  • Ten percent increase in fish biomass across eight MKBAs;
  • Ten percent increase in number of people gaining employment or better employment from sustainable fisheries management;
  • National capacity development program instituted to promote EAFM;
  • One million hectares of municipal marine waters under improved management;
  • A core of 30 LGUs across the MKBAs with improved capacity for implementing EAFM; and,
  • Eight public-private partnerships supporting the objectives of ECOFISH


Improve the management of important coastal and marine resources and associated ecosystems that support local economies.