The Rape of Our Ocean
We were supposed to dive in Bucas Grande Islands in Surigao two years ago, but the local dive master discouraged us, saying that there’s not much to see underwater since the pelagics and other corals were already gone due to dynamite fishing activities by the locals.
While diving in El Nido last year on a broad daylight, a sound of a underwater blast shocked us. Yes it was a dynamite. Dynamite fishing is still prevalent in a Marine Protected Area (MPA) like the waters of El Nido.
Apparently, despite the presence of law banning the practice of dynamite fishing in the country, the practice still continues. If this illegality is still happening in MPAs, like Bucas Grande National Park and El Nido Marine Reserve, how much more in the other areas of the country? So I thought dynamite fishing is the greatest crime a man can ever commit to marine environment, until the recent expose on harvesting, exporting and trading of our precious corals and other marine life.
On May 11, Bureau of Customs seized container vans full of stuffed marine turtles, corals, seashells and other harvested marine life in Cebu. Another raid in Cebu last May 19 resulted to interception of more sacks of harvested marine species from Cotabato.
Cause for Alarm
The first raid yielded at least 168 sacks or 375 pieces of the endangered marine species. According to the article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer dated May 25, marine experts have estimated that about 7,000 hectares of reef complex were destroyed when poachers harvested 161 sea turtles and over 21,000 sea shells and black corals off the waters of Cotabato. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that the area harvested could be as big as 7,000 hectares, an area almost twice the size of the city of Manila. But in the latest report, DENR claimed that the extent of destruction could be bigger than what they initially thought of, citing that the coral reefs destroyed could be five times bigger than Metro Manila.
The scope of the exploitation banners major newspapers, online news sites and blogs; and caused alarm to the netizens. Personally I was saddened by the news, it made me cry. The grand exploitation of our underwater natural resources is a horrifying nightmare that I cannot accept. The “rape of our ocean”, the mother of all marine crime, is something that should not be taken sitting down. We need to do something! I need to do something!
The State of Philippine Waters
Being a diver for almost three years and having logged more than 80 dives across Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, I find myself falling in love with our rich marine life. The harmless and helpless creatures that thrive in our waters welcomed me with open arms. They are my family underneath… the sea as my second home.
I am a diver but I am in no position to declare the state of the Philippine waters. I do not have any scientific research or study to back-up any statement. But one need not be a diver, a marine biologist or a government official to understand the state of our reefs. We just have to open our senses. Reports show that our reefs are in danger of wiping out.
The Philippines is said to be the center of world marine diversity in the world, with 27,000 square kilometers of coral reef covering our seas. But according to the recent study conducted by World Wide Fund (WWF), only 5% of this remains in excellent condition and only 1% remains pristine. These figures alone speak of the alarming state of our waters.
If we think an ordinary citizen like us cannot do something, think again. Once more, we need not be a diver or marine biologist to be part of the solution, because in our little ways, we can help.
With the continuous degrading state of our waters, I initiated my own advocacy with a list of ways on how we can help to save and protect our seas. One Tweet Everyday For 365 Days: The 365 Things I Can Do To Save Our Seas. Now on my 12th day, I invite everyone to be with me by following #365ways and #reefwatchPH hashtags on Twitter.
It doesn’t stop there because I challenge everyone to practice these simple ways and also contribute their thoughts. For now let’s have a rundown of the list:
1. Be vigilant. Report, tweet, blog or share in your network any illegal activities in Philippine waters.
2. Get involved. Participate in beach and underwater clean-up.
3. Be informed. Know what coral reefs are.
4. Avoid taking home sand, starfish, shells, corals and other alive species from the beach as souvenir.
5. Participate. Join the Blog Action Day to protect our coral reefs and seas on June 8, 2011.
6. Create more noise. Continue making buzz and urge your network to join our cause to pressure our government to act immediately.
7. Initiate. Urge your local government (if you are in coastal area) to declare your water as Marine Protected Area.
8. Understand the law.Know the Wildlife Act and Fisheries Code of the Philippines and other environmental laws.
9. Learn to dive or snorkel. This will make you appreciate marine life and understand their world.
10. Make each dive count. Make every dive a clean-up dive.
11. Dive responsibly. Avoid damaging the corals or harming marine life.
12. Reduce your carbon footprint and help prevent ocean acidification.
13. Plant trees. Trees help prevent global warming and rise in ocean temperatures.
14. When diving/snorkeling/swimming take nothing but pictures (and trash), leave nothing but bubbles 😉
15. Urge & educate boatmen to use buoy instead of dropping anchors to corals or seabed to avoid damaging the corals.
16. Walk or bike. Less fossil fuel emissions from cars helps prevent ocean warming that leads to coral bleaching.
17. Conserve water to lessen wastewater that pollutes our seas.
18. Do not litter. Do not throw your thrash to the sea, dispose it properly.
19. Learn how to properly control Crown-of-Thorns.
21. Eat only sustainable seafood.
22. Know these rare, threatened and endangered marine species of the Philippines http://t.co/xjS17h1
23. Use biodegradable “green plastics” made of agricultural materials such as cornstarch.
24. Use less fertilizer.
25. Reduce energy use.
26. Teach children on how to preserve and protect our marine and other natural resources.
27. Go organic. Buy foods that have not been sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers.
28. Say no to styrofoam.
29. Avoid pouring bad chemicals such as paint and oil down the drain. Dispose them properly.
30. Use fuel-efficient car, go car pooling or use public and mass transport system.
31. Reuse laundry wastewater.
In the world of social media supremacy, everyone can help with the aid of technology. Be informed and help in dissemination of the information by following and using #reefwatchPH and/or #savePHseas on Twitter and by following the savephilippineseas.com website.
Now is the time to act and you are just one click away. Be one of us!