Overfishing, coral reef destruction endanger Leyte Gulf

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Thursday, November 4, 2010


LEYTE Gulf's marine biodiversity has been endangered by overfishing, destruction of coral reefs, forests and mangroves, a study from the University of the Philippines in the Visayas-Tacloban College (UPVTC) showed.

Leyte Gulf comprises 140,000 hectares of fishing grounds, which is currently carried out by 4,100 fishers supplying the major staple food for a population of approximately 560,000 people.

In a baseline study commissioned by the Environment and Rural Development (EnRD) Program of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and was implemented by Prof. Margarita De la Cruz, a UPVTC marine biology professor, it was found out that destruction of fish habitats, decreased fish catch and disappearance of several fish species is taking place at Leyte Gulf.

In the same study, De la Cruz reported on the remarkable drop in catches and changes in species composition.

Fishers from most areas said that the once average catch of up to 50 kilograms has now dropped to a daily 0-5 kilograms, barely enough to meet the family's daily needs.

The study also revealed other issues that contributed to the remarkable drop in catches and change.

These include political intervention, ningas cogon (good at the start only) attitude among the enforcers, lack of support for the enforcers, lack of equipment, lack of financial support from the local government units, lack of cooperation from the fishing communities, inactive Bantay Dagat (sea patrol), weak penal provisions of the law and collusion between law enforcers and the violators.

Mayor Remedios Petilla of Palo said that in situations of scarcity, fishers often resort to illegal fishing methods like dynamite fishing to tide them over.

Petilla said those who resort to dynamite fishing use compressors, improvised flippers and explosives consisting of ammonium nitrate, sinker and scoop net.

"Our fight versus fishermen using dynamites is made more difficult by the intrusion of commercial vessels to our municipal waters and other areas in the Leyte Gulf," Petilla said.

Another local executive, Mayor Agapito Pagayanan Jr. of Tanauan said that Bantay Dagat members have to deal with the motorboats used by the illegal fishers that sport faster engine with 32 horsepower compared with their boats, which only have 15 horsepower.

The perennial dynamite fishing problem and other issues related to the fish drop catch and change, however, is expected to be eradicated with the establishment of the 11-strong Alliance of Local Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Development Council for the Leyte Gulf Conservation (ALFARMDC).

The ALFARMDC is composed of Tacloban City, two municipalities in the province of Samar (Marabut, Basey) and eight municipalities in the province of Leyte (Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Dulag, Mayorga, MacArthur, Javier and Abuyog).

It was founded on March 23, 2010 to protect the Leyte Gulf and re establish a former successful fishery in the area.

The GTZ provided technical assistance to the ALFARMDC's governance on environmental management through capacity building and institutionalization of the coastal and fisheries resource management concepts, principles and practices.

The municipal fisheries ordinances were reviewed towards uniformity, while the fisheries and aquatic resources management councils and fisheries law enforcement teams, like Bantay Dagat, are being strengthened to improve utilization and enforcement of fishery and environmental laws.

Also, an education campaign was facilitated for behavioral change to support environmental management while habitat management was enabled through establishment of marine-protected areas.

In addition, around 320.8 hectares of mangrove greenbelt through planting and mangrove area rehabilitation is being established to increase the breeding grounds of fish and other marine organisms.

Jochem Lange, GTZ country director for the Philippines and the Pacific islands, said during his recent visit in Tacloban City that he could see the motivation of the local officials and residents in protecting the environment by forming the Leyte Gulf alliance.

"This is very important because better captures lead to better income and better nutrition for the people," Lange said.

Lange encouraged the alliance members to continue with their project so that livelihood of the fisherfolk would be raised and the marine ecosystem will be conserved. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)

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