Fish is the primary source of protein in the Filipino diet. Some 2,000 species abound in Philippine waters. Despite more than a doubling in output since the 1960s, the fishing industry remains relatively undeveloped, and large quantities of fish are imported. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) cites the continued environmental degradation of Philippine waters as a major constraint on fish production. In 2000, the total domestic fish catch was 1,892,832 tons (12th in the world), of which 8% came from inland waters. Exports of fish products in 2000 were valued at $400 million.
Six species are most important, according to BFAR, because each has yielded 100,000 tons per year or more since the mid- 1980s. These species are: sardines, roundscad, frigate tuna, anchovies, milkfish, and tilapia. Indian mackerel, skipjack and yellowfin tuna, sea bass, red snapper, mullet, kawakawa, squid, and prawn are also plentiful. Principal commercial fishing grounds are off Palawan, north of Panay and Negros, and to the south and west of Mindanao. Subsistence fishing is conducted throughout the archipelago. Fish ponds, chiefly for cultivation of bangos or milkfish, are principally in the swampy coastal areas of western Panay and around Manila Bay. Pearl shells (including cultured pearls), sponges, sea cucumbers (trepang), shark fins, and sea turtles are exported.