Landmark ordinance in Cebu sets to establish the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary

Almost a year after Cebu hosted the first Philippine Shark Summit, the province strengthened its commitment to protect shark and ray species by establishing the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary, located close to Malapascua Island, in the Municipality of Daanbantayan.

Through Executive Order 16-2015 Engineer Augusto Corro, the Municipal Mayor of Daanbantayan, has designated the world-renowned dive sites of Monad Shoal and Gato Island as a shark and ray sanctuary, prohibiting the catching and trading of all shark and ray species within these waters. Rare species, such as thresher sharks, whitetip sharks, manta rays, and devil rays, can be found in these areas.

“Our landmark decision to create the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary will ensure the protection and conservation of sharks and rays which are threatened to extinction due to overfishing and the general lack of awareness on the importance of these highly endangered species,” said Mayor Corro. “Hosting the shark and ray sanctuary is also one of the best ways in which our local community can give back to these creatures for bringing-in tourism revenues which boosts their livelihood.”

The new EO was welcomed by environmentalists, marine conservationists, tourism executives, and local government agencies [1] that gathered at the Cebu Provincial Capitol for a three-day forum on strengthening and implementing the province’s shark and ray ordinance [2].

“For a country blessed with unique marine biodiversity, it is high time that we establish a shark and ray sanctuary. We are pleased that Cebu is continuing its great work on shark and ray conservation by establishing sanctuaries that ensure the sustainability of these critical species,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “We urge our national lawmakers to take the cue from Cebu and make similar moves to turn the rest of our national waters into a haven for all shark and ray species.”

Studies conducted by the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project estimates that approximately 80% of the municipal economy of Daanbantayan is fueled by scuba diving, providing employment and supporting livelihoods of local communities and its neighboring municipalities.

Atty. Chad Estella, head of Cebu’s Anti-Illegal Fishing Task Force, added that the declaration of the shark and ray sanctuary demonstrates how the provincial ordinance is also good for local communities. “One of the action points we’ve come up is to launch Oplan Palwis [3] to further strengthen Cebu’s existing ordinance that protects sharks and rays, incorporating science and using the updated and revolutionary Philippine Fisheries Code. This is to ensure that the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary will be effective especially in reversing fish decline due to decades of overfishing,” said Estella.”

Dennis Bryan Bait-it, the coordinator of Daanbantayan’s Bantay Dagat Migo sa Iho said, “Protecting sharks and rays is not only economically beneficial to local fisherfolk, but also to our marine ecosystems. Many shark species are indicators of a healthy marine ecosystem. This ensures fish are spawning and thriving so there would be more fish to catch by the local fishermen.”

Anna Oposa, co-founder of Save Philippine Seas said, “The declaration of the shark and ray sanctuary sends a powerful message to the rest of the country and the world – that with political will, we can protect and restore the health of our seas.”

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