Cebu leads call for national protection of sharks

Hundreds of Cebuanos, advocates, NGOs, and fisherfolk joined the festive shark parade this morning in Cebu City to call for the city’s commitment to protect shark species. From Pasil Fish Market the shark parade participants in colorful shark costumes headed to Cebu City Hall. As a response, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña today signed an executive order towards the protection of shark and ray species.

The announcement from the City Government means that the whole of Cebu Island now has local ordinances that seek to protect sharks. Cebu Local Government Units, along with environmentalists, scientists and interest groups, are now calling for the protection of sharks and other marine species at a national level through the creation of interconnected ocean sanctuaries.

The decision of Mayor Tomas Osmeña is important as it turns the whole of Cebu into a shark and ray sanctuary. This is a very welcome development, as we just concluded the country’s 2nd Shark Summit, where an agreement was made toward the protection of all shark and ray species.

But our gains in Cebu and the implementation of the CITES listing will only work if we take this to the national level. The Philippine Government needs to hasten the revision and passage of Senate Bill 905 that seeks to protect all shark and ray species found within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and co-founder of Save Sharks Network of the Philippines (SSNP).

The 2nd Shark Summit, led by Save Philippine Seas, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, and Greenpeace last November 10 and 11 in Dumaguete, builds on the successful listing of thresher, mobula and silky sharks for protection under Appendix II of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The listing doubled to 20 per cent the proportion of sharks targeted by the fin trade that are now regulated internationally, this also means that the species are automatically protected in the Philippines under Section 102 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Philippine Fisheries Code.

Bimbo Fernandez, Executive Assistant of the Office of the Mayor on Special Concerns and former Undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, said that “despite Cebu being a highly urbanized city, the local government always put the protection of key marine habitats within our jurisdiction as a priority, and we strongly believe that market intervention is crucial to the overall efforts of protecting sharks, rays and the marine environment, and we call on our national counterparts to legislate a bill to sustainably manage shark and ray species, so that all our efforts will not go down the drain. Cebu City agrees that we need to go beyond protecting species listed in CITES.”

Cebu City hosts the biggest fish market in the region where catch from other parts of the country are being landed. Cebu is the only province in the Philippines that bans the catching, selling, possession and trading of all shark species and its derivatives.

Cebu also hosts the country’s first and, currently, only shark and ray sanctuary.Monad Shoal, near the Island of Malapascua in Cebu’s Daanbantayan Municipality, is the only place in the world where thresher sharks could be viewed with certainty on a daily basis. Threshers have become the main feature of the SCUBA dive tourism industry in Malapascua, which accounts for most of Daanbantayan’s economy, securing the livelihood of many in the municipality and its neighboring communities.

“We, from the municipal fishing communities welcome this decision, as our livelihood and food is heavily dependent on the health of the seas, we haven’t seen them for years and we admit to hunting them down for food, as we are being robbed of the most important species everytime commercial fishing operators cast their nets down in our waters. If we protect these sharks, we are also protecting our fishing grounds and the future of our community,” said Teody Navea of Sanlakas, which represent fisherfolk from various coastal communities in Cebu.”

“For us in the scientific community, the decision of Cebu City Government is historical as Shark and Ray Science points to an unprecedented decline of these species. In the Philippines, despite progress made in science, there is a dearth of knowledge in shark and ray species diversity, habitat, biology and threats. Interestingly, new species are being discovered during expeditions and market surveys.

Rare species are even documented in Philippine waters, such as the megamouth shark - the country having the third highest number of reports worldwide, and the critically endangered sawfish. We need to have science to inform in the best possible ways for shark management. We need to move forward as a country together if we want to reverse this trend, if there are problems along the way, we can always fix it,” said Dr. Alessandro Ponzo of the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines.

Notes to Editors:

[1]https://www.bataris.org.ph/petitions/revise-senate-bill-905-pass-the-shark-and-ray-protection-act

[2] http://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/2446121046!.pdf

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