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Save the Philippine Seas before it’s too late – Greenpeace

June 7, 2013

MANILA – “Save the Philippine seas now – before it’s too late,” Greenpeace, marine experts and fisherfolk made the call today as they renewed their demand for the Philippine government to enact and enforce stronger policies to preserve the country’s oceans. The groups also urged all Filipinos to be part of efforts to revive the seas. The call came on the eve of World Oceans Day, the UN-designated celebration meant to remind the world about how crucial the oceans are for our survival. This year’s theme is “Together we have the power to protect the ocean!”

"All stakeholders must be involved in the rehabilitation of the Philippine seas,” said Dr. Perry Aliño, of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute. “We need to strengthen our existing social and ecological networks. Government mechanisms must be set up, with concrete solutions such as increasing the number and effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).”

The report Oceans in the Balance is an overview of the worsening crisis in the Philippine seas. The report compiles data which show that as the country’s marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests are being destroyed, we are extracting more and more fish from the sea than it can sustainably provide. In short, we are not only emptying the oceans of fish, but we are also destroying vital habitats necessary for marine species to propagate.

“We are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Our seas are nearing their tipping point – overfishing, destructive and illegal fishing, poaching, pollution and climate change are sucking the life out of our waters. There is a very urgent need for the government to elevate oceans protection as a matter of national priority. This needs to happen now before the country drowns in a sea of problems.”

The report notes that despite the Fisheries Code of 1998, which mandates the protection of 15% of fishing grounds as marine protected areas, legislation seems unable to ensure the sustainability of our seas due to pervasive illegal commercial fishing activities and the encroachment of foreign fishing vessels into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

Small municipal fisherfolk who are edged out by massive industrial fishing operations are the one who suffer the most. Greenpeace says that the high incidence of poverty in coastal fishing communities is reflective of the crisis attributed to the declining marine ecosystem and overfishing.

“There are around two million Filipino fishers who are heavily dependent on the sea,” said Maricel Gacela of Samahan ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda sa Calatagan (SAMMACA). “We all have nothing to fish and nothing to feed our families. With a net income of only 250 Pesos a day, most fisherfolk end up in debt. Commercial fishing vessels take all the fish, sometimes from municipal fishing grounds, leaving us with very little fish to catch and barely enough money to cover gasoline costs for going out to sea.”

The report is intended as a call to action to address the two-pronged crisis of marine degradation and overfishing. Along with a broad range of stakeholders, Greenpeace is calling on the Aquino administration to immediately act against the crisis of overfishing and marine ecosystem degradation by:

1. Ensuring that the protection, rehabilitation, and conservation of Philippine seas are a national priority (such by improving MPA management and establishing a national network of marine reserves); and

2. Creating and immediately implementing a roadmap that eliminates overfishing and allows the recovery of the Philippine fish stocks. This can be achieved with steps such as stronger vehicle registry systems, halting the issuance of commercial permits, and strict enforcement of the 15 kilometer zone for small scale fishers.

“We need a wholesale change in how we currently manage our oceans,” said Cinches. “Overfishing must end, and more areas need to be protected and interconnected. This will require concerted effort from all sectors. All Filipinos are stakeholders of the seas – we must each be part of the solution. Greenpeace is asking all Filipinos to signing up at to join the movement of Ocean Defenders and help protect our seas.”