Let’s save our oceans — now!

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos August 05,2018 - 08:31 PM

Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos

Our oceans are dying – and need massive resuscitation from us. No thanks to humanity’s continuing assault on the ecosystems, from the highlands down to the oceans, the fish population are not only declining, several species are no longer found.

Apart from the scarcity, fish are getting smaller and the prices, stiffer.

Scientific data abound to support the alarming state of our fisheries and their interconnected habitats they rely upon to grow and thrive.

In a Social Weather Stations survey in 2017, illegal and destructive fishing ranked second to pollution and waste management as the most important problems facing our ocean today, with 43% rating it as a ‘very serious’ problem and 28% as a ‘somewhat serious’ or a total of 71% of the respondents.

Our national and local authorities need not look far. Just ask the small scale fisherfolks, considered the poorest of the poor, who feel that government has not prioritized their concerns. The banned commercial fishing plunders the municipal waters which the Constitution and our Fisheries Code, and as amended, reserved for the preferential access of the small fishers who use sustainable means of fishing.

Clearly, we are harvesting more than what Nature can possibly replenish. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) recognizes that 2/3 of the fishing grounds in the country are overfished.

Why then is DA-BFAR taking its sweet time in exercising its power and performing its duty as mandated by RA 10654 and regulations to promulgate the rules for effective and sustainable management of our fisheries including institutionalizing vessel monitoring in the country on all commercial fishing vessels, from 3.1 gross tonnage and over? The deadline, October 2016, for vessel monitoring rules, has clearly lapsed. The use of the vessel monitoring technology as it tracks irresponsible and illegal behavior deters illegal fishing, especially in our municipal waters.

A study led by Dr Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller of the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project in 2016 notes that “global catches actually peaked at 130 metric tons in 1996 and have declined sharply — on average, by about 1.2 million metric tons every year — ever since.”

Our artisanal fisherfolks say the same thing: that in the 1990s, they started to spend longer hours in the ocean and still got less than the harvests that they had in the 1980s and decades before that.

Governor Freddie Maranon of Negros Occidental shared that during the Second World War, in the 1940s, he and his family stayed in a popular island in Cebu and they never felt pangs of hunger because there was more than enough fish and marine resources for the people.

The goal of bringing back fish abundance can only be achieved by solutions that are science-based, sustainable, long-term and holistic. No quick fixes, please.

Communities and various sectors must work together in ensuring that we all save our oceans — now!

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