Close to 100 policymakers, advocates, government officials, and shark enthusiasts gathered on November 10-11 in Silliman University for the 2nd Philippine Shark Summit and made a call for the protection of sharks at a national level.
Building on the critical milestones of the 1st Philippine Shark Summit held in Cebu in 2014, the Summit convened by Save Sharks Network Philippines (SSNP) is part of Shark Conservation Week, an awareness campaign to highlight issues on the conservation, management, and utilization of sharks, and to engage various stakeholders toward the passage of a shark and ray protection bill.
“In shark and ray management and conservation issues, we need to engage various stakeholders, from policymakers, scientists, advocates, and youth. Their issues reflect the ocean’s issues, which need to be tackled from various entry points,” said Anna Oposa, Executive Director of Save Philippine Seas.
This year’s summit set the objectives to (1) review the accomplishments and gaps based on the commitments crafted during the 2014 Shark Summit; (2) identify solutions and stakeholders to address gaps and other emerging issues on shark management and conservation; and (3) review and enhance proposed policies on shark protection. By bringing an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder group together, the Shark Summit is expected to play a significant role in strengthening the conservation of shark species in the Philippines, and ensuring that the plans created during the week are supported by commitments, enforceable legislation, and management.
“We are honored to host the country’s 2nd Shark Summit, and we will pass a resolution to ensure that all sharks and rays species are protected and sustainably managed in the province,” said Nilo Sayson, Negros Oriental Provincial Board Member. “We hope that this effort will inspire our neighboring province, to send a strong message to our colleagues in the senate to pass a law that protects all shark and ray species.”
In 2010, the Province of Cebu passed a local ordinance banning the capture, killing, transport, and sale of thresher sharks, manta rays, and sunfish. In 2014, the sale of sharks in Daanbantayan’s public markets made headlines in local newspapers. A year later, then-Mayor Augusto Corro signed Executive Order No. 16-2015 declaring Monad Shoal and Gato Island off Malapascua Island as shark and ray sanctuaries.
“We already have our own National Plan of Action for Sharks that provides the minimum requirement in sharks conservation. The government needs to focus its attention to ensuring that these species, as crucial indicator of a healthy marine ecosystem, will finally be sustainably managed and protected,” explained Moonyeen Alava, Executive Director of Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Inc.
“Shark tourism is already important to the Philippines, with sites like Donsol for whale sharks, Tubbataha reefs for reef sharks, and Monad Shoal for thresher sharks, showing that protecting sharks has direct socioeconomic benefits,” cited AA Yaptinchay, Director of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines. “Many more sites have this potential if only we could find a way to reduce the threat of unmanaged fisheries to their populations. This move is also critical to keep marine ecosystems healthy.”
The Philippines has been consuming sharks, particularly stingrays, for a Bicol-originating dish called kinunot (literally, “shredded”) in coconut milk. Devil ray and whale shark dried meat were popular for local consumption in the Visayas, until the fishing of giant manta ray and whale shark were banned in 1998. According to the UN FAO the value of world trade in shark commodities approaches USD 1 billion per year.
“Sharks play a vital role within marine ecosystems and protecting sharks is one of the more holistic ways of saving the marine environment,” said Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Sharks are typically apex predators. They help keep prey populations healthy by feeding on weak, sick, old fishes and prevent overgrazing of critical marine habitats. Removal of sharks from an ecosystem has the potential to create significant changes to predator-prey interactions in that system. Thus, saving sharks means we are also saving the future of our oceans and the lives as well as the people who depend on it.”
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