U.S. Vice President Harris visits Fish Right project during tour of Philippines

URI’s Coastal Resources Center implements the seven-year program funded by USAID

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – Nov. 23, 2022 – Since 2018, the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center in the Graduate School of Oceanography has led an international initiative to create sustainable fisheries in the Philippines, implementing a $33 million program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

This week, the USAID Fish Right Program received a special visit from U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who was visiting the Philippines on a three-day tour to reinforce relations with the archipelagic nation of more than 100 million people.

“The United States is proud of our long-standing ties with the people of the Philippines. I am here in Palawan to underscore the importance of our partnership in order to create economic opportunities, protect coastal ecosystems, maintain peace and stability, and uphold international rules and norms here in the South China Sea and around the world,” Harris said in a speech on Tuesday, according to the Manila Bulletin.

During a stop in the province of Palawan on Tuesday, Harris visited the fishing village of Tagburos to check in on the Fish Right initiative. Tagburos will be one of the program’s learning innovation hubs for resilient fisheries in the West Philippine Sea. 

Greeted by a dance team of village children, the vice president met with project officials to discuss the success of the seven-year program, which focuses on countering illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing while promoting good fishing practices and ensuring a sustainable source of food and livelihood for the local communities.

While in Tagburos, Harris also talked with the local fisherfolk and watched their work. “The fisheries of Palawan not only provide food for residents but serve as the economic lifeblood of this island,” she said.

“We are delighted to have hosted Vice President Harris,” said Elin Torell, director for international programs at the Coastal Resources Center at the Narragansett Bay Campus and principal investigator for Fish Right. “Her visit to Tugburos underscores the U.S. government’s commitment to addressing IUU fishing and puts a spotlight on URI’s work to support communities around the world to become more effective stewards of their coastal marine resources.”

Fish Right, which is funded through March 2025, was established in 2018 to use coastal science and fishery reform to improve the Philippines’ fishing industry – one of the largest in the world – which was endangered by destructive fishing practices, storms and coastal degradation. The program seeks to build resilient fishing communities while ensuring that women and other marginalized groups participate as equals in coastal stewardship.

Over the last four years, Fish Right has supported the establishment of marine protected area networks in Palawan, Southern Negros and the Visayan Sea, bringing about 10,000 square miles of ocean under improved management. The program has also conducted an assessment of illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries in 160 coastal communities and worked with local governments and other stakeholders to determine responses. In Palawan alone, the assessment spurred 15 plans to reduce fishing violations.

The Coastal Resources Center, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, has worked on numerous vital projects in the United States and around the globe, advising governments and partner organizations on coastal issues such as aquaculture, coastal development, marine biodiversity, and climate change over the past five decades.