Shark ban ignorance
Having provincial officials like Tuburan Mayor Democrito Diamante who are unaware of the existence of a provincial ordinance that bans the catching, sale and trading of endangered marine species like sharks isn’t surprising in itself.
What is surprising is that the Bantay Dagat teams who are supposed to be enforcing the fishery laws against violators aren’t aware of the amendment of the Provincial Ordinance that includes all species of sharks as part of the endangered species.
As noted by Provincial Board (PB) Member Thadeo Ouano, the Bantay Dagat teams should be fully aware of the Provincial Fisheries Code, basically a localized version of the existing Philippine Fisheries Code, including its amendments not only because they are tasked with enforcing the law but disseminating it to their constituents as well.
The Bantay Dagat teams are the frontliners in the provincial government’s campaign against illegal fishing and it’s not as if they’re slacking off in their jobs.
Under the Provincial Anti-Illegal Fishing Task Force then led by the controversial Loy Madrigal, the Bantay Dagat teams have apprehended some commercial fishers found to be operating in municipal waters.
Even in Tuburan town with a 20-kilometer shoreline in northwest Cebu, the campaign against illegal fishing had been intensive as claimed by Mayor Diamante.
The problem mainly lies in ignorance of the shark ban by the mayors themselves, Ouano said. Diamante vowed to rectify the situation by raising awareness of the shark ban in a meeting of the League of Municipal Mayors (LMP) Cebu chapter that he heads on July 24.
Ouano said another shark summit will be held in July or August this year and we could only hope more mayors will attend this time.
But the problem of raising awareness and support for the shark ban among the fishing communities whose catch is dwindling due to competition and environmental deterioration is still substantial.
One way is through social media. Photos of shark meat being sold in Bantayan public market caught the eye of Bantayan Mayor Christopher Escario who warned vendors not to do it again and promised to display tarpaulins in the market as a reminder.
But we have to assume that not everyone, maybe majority of the fishing community, has access to social media.
This is where the Bantay Dagat teams along with personnel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) can come in by conducting information campaigns on the shark ban.
It would certainly go a long way if the mayor takes the lead unless he or she is benefiting in some way from the sale of sharks and other endangered species.
We won’t see a halt in shark meat sales anytime soon but these pledges from local officials would be a positive start.