Dynamite fishing remains rampant across the country's fishing grounds.
DONSOL, Sorsogon: Climate change, ocean pollution, and overfishing threaten the Philippines’ stature as the leader in global marine biodiversity, and are already affecting communities that rely on rich marine ecosystems for food.
At a community conference held at the Municipal Hall of Donsol, Sorsogon, Greenpeace has expressed alarm over the unprecedented destruction of the Philippine marine ecosystem that foreshadows serious health, social and economic impacts.
“We are an archipelagic nation. Soon, we will become the epicenter of global marine adversity if our government agencies refuse to acknowledge and address the crisis at sea,” Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said.
“Our seas are already under threat from massive overfishing and decades of unsustainable fishing practices that have resulted in today’s dwindling fish catch. With ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures, fish won’t be able to spawn and propagate. That now leaves 30 million Filipinos with even less fish to eat,” he added.
There is also the problem of illegal commercial fishing. Monsignor Angel Dy of the Sorsogon Social Action Foundation Inc said that fisherfolk around Burias-Ticao Pass cannot compete with large commercial fishing vessels that encroach on municipal waters.
“We know that illegal and unregulated fishing is rampant in our waters, and yet no one seems to be doing anything about it. This is the reason why last year some bishops went to President Aquino to request that his office ban commercial vessels from the waters around Burias, Ticao, and Ragay Gulf,” said the Monsignor.
With climate change affecting the world’s oceans, more extreme and unpredictable weather has shortened the fishing season for small-scale fisherfolk who are entirely dependent on the sea for their livelihood.
In Donsol, fishermen have experienced another lackluster year.
Most can barely meet six kilos per day, the average haul that will give them a good day’s wage.
About 1.2 million jobs in the fishing, tourism and the food sectors would be directly affected by poor oceans management. Cinches said that the government has so far not offered a comprehensive solution to revive Philippine seas.
Philippine Fisheries has an annual estimated production of 6,000,000 metric tons of fish, but there has been a steady decline due to overfishing attributed to illegal commercial fishing vessels.
Greenpeace has long called on the government’s attention to help avert a fish crisis. Earlier this year, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) revealed that ten out of 13 fishing grounds in the country are heavily exploited due to illegal and unregulated fishing activities.
Greenpeace is working to support fishing communities in the Philippines, particularly in places like Ticao Pass and Donsol which are home to vulnerable species such as whalesharks and manta rays.
“We are in deep trouble. The government must acknowledge that our seas are in crisis,” Cinches said.
He urged the BFAR to come up with a fisheries rescue roadmap: “What the country needs is the establishment of more marine reserves and the reduction of our fishing capacity to sustainable levels, alongside long term solutions to climate change.”
In the coming weeks, Greenpeace will launch its Ocean Defender initiative, bringing together a network of volunteers who are committed to raising awareness about oceans issues such as marine pollution and overfishing.
The group is calling on Filipinos who care about our seas to join this movement by logging on to http://www.facebook.com/groups/oceandefender/
Greenpeace is committed to defending the health of the world’s oceans and the plants, animals and people that depend upon them. – Bicol Mail