The Declaration, issued today, was the culmination of a two-day crisis conference held this week at the University Hotel in UP Diliman and organized by Greenpeace and NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR). The conference, which discussed the declining state of the Philippine waters and solutions that will best address the problem, brought together representatives of fisherfolk, local government units, government agencies, marine scientists, academicians, and NGOs working on marine conservation and fisheries, to reassess issues plaguing the seas and affecting various sectors of society on a national scale.
“The crisis of the Philippine seas will soon reach the tipping point where our fish stocks and marine ecosystems—coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests—will not be able to fully recover,” said Dr. Radzma Sahaili, a marine scientist from Mindanao State University. “This crisis is hardly new, but unfortunately it remains inadequately addressed. Part of the problem is it is a hidden environmental devastation. On the surface the sea looks as it has always done. But underneath corals are dying and fish populations are dwindling. They can—and will—disappear if we continue as we do now.”
“The Declaration of Crisis in the Philippine Seas is important: it is an indicator that we are no longer in a state of denial, that we acknowledge the devastation happening beneath the waves,” said Dennis Calvan, the Executive Director of the NGOs for Fisheries Reform. “The most to suffer from this crisis are coastal communities and municipal fisherfolk who are already among the poorest people in the country. But, ultimately, we will all suffer the consequences.”
The Philippines has one of the most diverse aquatic ecosystems in the planet, but these are also the most threatened. Only 5% of the country’s coral reefs remain in good condition. Of the remaining 450,000 hectares of mangroves reported in 1914, only around 100,00 hectares remain. Last February, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that ten out of 13 surveyed fishing grounds are either severely fished or overexploited. According to the National Statistical Coordination Board, the maximum sustainable yield for fishing was already reached in back in 1986.
As an archipelagic nation with the third longest coastline in the world, the Philippines’ territorial sea is more than twice as big as its land mass. Almost the entire population, whether directly or indirectly, depends on the health of its coastal waters. Unhealthy marine ecosystems spell disaster for a country dependent on the sea for food and livelihood.
“Our seas are bigger—and richer—than any ecosystem we have on land. And yet the policies to protect them are fragmented and uncoordinated,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “We are where we are now because of resource management decisions designed to satisfy short-term economic or political objectives rather to conserve fish populations for the benefit of future generations. We need to change the way we look at and take care of our seas. The sea is a limited resource so policies must be geared fully toward protection and not exploitation.”
“The Philippine seas will continue to plunge headlong into a deep crisis as long as we continue assaulting our waters with pollution and emptying our rich fishing grounds as if there’s no tomorrow. Future generations will be the ones to pay the high price for the devastation of our waters. There may still be time to reverse the damage we have caused to our oceans, but it requires action be taken now,” he added.
Greenpeace is sounding the alarm on the crisis currently facing Philippine seas, and is working to promote the conservation, protection and sustained management of the country's marine resources. Globally, Greenpeace is calling for the creation of a network of marine reserves and an end to overfishing as solutions to restoring the health of the world’s oceans.
The environment group is additionally calling on Filipinos to become Ocean Defenders-- a group of Filipinos who show great concern for the sea, and who will raise the awareness on oceans issues such as overfishing, habitat destruction and other threats such as climate change and ocean pollution in the country. They will be mobilized to document, investigate, expose threats to our oceans, and to take action with the mandate to defend our oceans. Visit www.defendouroceans.org for more details.
For more information:
Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner, +63917- 5363754,
Therese Salvador, Media Campaigner +63917-8228734,