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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesSaturday, July 13, 2013
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Decline in fish yield
noted in Apo Island

BY JUDY F. PARTLOW

Renowned marine scientist, Dr. Angel Alcala, said yesterday there is a decline in fish yield at Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental after typhoons Sendong and Pablo in late 2011 and late 2012.

Before the typhoons, fish production outside the Apo Island marine sanctuary was reportedly at an average of 150 tons of bio-mass a year, but now, it has dropped to as low as 15 tons a year, Alcala said during a forum on climate change at Silliman University.

The forum is part of the activities for the Ocean Defenders campaign of Greenpeace, launched Tuesday on its first leg of the tour at Apo Island and in Dumaguete City July 9 to 13.

The decline in fisheries production at the island is linked to the two typhoons as well as extreme weather conditions arising from climate change, Alcala and other scientists at the same forum, said.

A former head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and of the Commission on Higher Education, Alcala said 10 percent of the current total fish catch of 15 tons a year at Apo Island comes from the marine protected areas, or MPAs.

In 1984, the MPA was established at Apo Island and was later declared a Protected Landscape and Seascape. It is said to be one of the best documented MPAs in the world.

However, Apo Island has suffered massive devastation of its total 104 hectares of coral cover, the biggest of which is at its 24-hectare marine sanctuary where about 99 percent of the coral reefs have been reduced to “rubble”, scientists and divers reported following reef checks and surveys done early this week.

Alcala said marine protected areas are necessary to sustain fishery production, especially because “Filipinos love to eat fish”.

He noted that today, shallow waters no longer have as much fish as in previous decades. He attributes reduced fish population to overfishing and the use of destructive fishing gear and overpopulation, among others.

The Philippines has an estimated 25,000 square kilometers total of coral reef cover, but only about four percent of this have MPAs, he added.

Alcala recommends converting as much as 30 percent of the Philippines’ total coral reefs cover to save these from further degradation.

He said that, based on a 2007 survey, of the estimated 600 marine protected areas in the Visayas, only 30 percent is working.

Alcala said he has been lobbying for this with government for many years but lamented there is very little action taken.

“I have been telling them that. Even the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) do not believe me,” Alcala said.

Alcala, currently the director of Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management, said stronger government policies must be adopted to save the country’s coral reefs from further degradation.

Greenpeace campaigners and its largest vessel, Esperanza, arrived at Apo Island to document the current state of its coral reefs and determine the extent of the damage to its coral cover.

They are touring Southeast Asia via the Esperanza to promote its Ocean Defenders campaign to protect the oceans they say are facing a crisis.*JFP

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