Editorial: Protecting wildlife

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Sunday, August 24, 2014


A GENERATION haunted by the rampaging man-eating shark in the Steven Spielberg classic, “Jaws,” would have empathized with Sene Deblosan of Asturias, who was apprehended while selling 19 kilos of thresher shark meat.

Members of the Cebu Provincial Anti-illegal Fishing Task Force “chanced upon” Deblosan at Sitio Sangi, Barangay Tubigagmanok in Asturias on their way back to Cebu City after an operation, reported Flornisa M. Gitgano in Sun.Star Cebu last Aug. 21.

A provincial ordinance prohibits the fishing, killing and selling of thresher sharks, an endangered species. According to the task force, a local fisherman caught the shark by accident. Both Deblosan and the fisherman claimed they were not aware of the ordinance protecting thresher sharks.

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The task force released them without charges after warning them not to violate again the provincial ordinance.

“Not meat”

There’s a need to raise public awareness about wildlife protection and nature conservation, the Cebu Provincial Anti-illegal Fishing Task Force informed Sun.Star Cebu.

Coastal communities should be made aware that marine life caught or stranded should be released, unharmed, to the sea. Task force monitoring will discourage the selling of shark meat, which, at P40 a kilo, is a cheap option for households with limited means.

However, lack of education is not the only trigger that drives the trade in shark meat or other “exotic” seafood. For generations, the Pasil wet market attracts residentsand visitors to dine on pawikan (sea turtles) and tadlungan (shark). Either due to the high demand for or scarce supply of hot meat, the eateries usually run out of stock before noon.

Sharks aren’t only endangered by people’s appetite for budget meals. Shark fin soup, a fixture in banquets and feasts, feeds a worldwide demand for shark fins. It also created the cruel practice of “finning,” the removal of fins from a living shark, which is dumped back to the sea. The shark starves to death, is eaten by other sea predators, or drowns since the shark’s inability to move prevents the gills from extracting oxygen from the water.

According to stopsharkfinning.net, the demand for shark fin soup causes the slow death of “tens of millions of sharks” annually. The “indiscriminate slaughter at an unsustainable rate” has pushed many shark species to the “brink of extinction.”

Eco-education

In the original “Jaws” movie and its sequels, the feeding frenzy of a shark caused not just actors to panic on screen but also bred deep seated biases and misconceptions about these predators.

According to greenpeace.org, “sharks have more to fear from humans than humans have to fear from them.” Indiscriminate practices and overfishing are not the only threats; extractive industries and pollution destroy their habitats and migratory pathways.

The breadth and depth of the open seas, which form the borderless boundaries roamed by sharks, is a metaphor for the expanse of understanding and cooperation needed to turn the world into sanctuaries, not killing fields, for all forms of life. Education is vital for the radical transformation of humans from being exploiters of resources to becomingguardians and nurturers.

One of the highlights of the First Shark Summit held by the Cebu Provincial Government to commemorate International Shark Week was a mural created by Amado Guerrero “AG” Saño and other artists and environmental advocates.

The walls outside St. Joseph’s Academy in Mandaue City were recently painted with origami images of sharks and the message, “Dili mi karne (we are not meat),” reported Rebelander S. Basilan in Sun.Star Cebu last Aug. 21.

Saño, other artists and the Cebu Kabanay Lions Club are undertaking a mural project in many areas of Mandaue to promote environmental awareness. Saño is known for tapping art to advocate for peace in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao and campaign against the slaughter and trafficking of dolphins.

Artists and civil society can show us how to make this world more hospitable for sustaining life.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2014.

Opinion

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