Only 1% of country's coral reefs remains pristine -- WWF

Posted at 05/29/11 6:40 PM

‘Public-private partnership needed to eliminate rape of seas’

MANILA, Philippines - The public and private sector should work together to finally stop the rape and plunder of the country’s marine resources, said the World Wide Fund for Nature.

In a statement, WWF Philippines Vice Chairperson and Chief Executive Jose Ma. Lorenzo said the response to the problem should be “national and systemic. The response can be no less.”

WWF released the statement amid news that the destruction brought about by the recent smuggling try of some P35 million worth of illicit shipments from the coast of Cotabato covered 5 times the size of Metro Manila.

Initial estimates showed that poachers only destroyed twice the size of Metro Manila to be able to harvest 196 kilos of sea whips corals, 161 heads of preserved hawksbill and green turtles, 7,300 pieces of seashells and 21,169 pieces of black corals.

For WWF, the confiscated hauls, including a recent one from Cebu, “are merely symptomatic of what has been happening throughout the country - illegal, unregulated and unreported extraction of marine wealth.”

WWF said the country sits at the apex of the so-called Coral Triangle. Over 27,000 square kilometers of coral reef cover the Philippines seas. A single square kilometer can produce over 40 metric tons of suno, talakitok and other forms of seafood.

However, 50 years of nonstop destructive commercial and poorly managed artisanal fishing has left only 5% in excellent condition. Only 1% remains “pristine.”

Lorenzo said: “Government can be a catalyst. However, it is private sector involvement that keeps sustainable efforts in place for the long term, maintaining supply chains throbbing and productive. Ultimately, legal and sustainable incomes for local communities are going to be the straw that will break this camel's back.”

Malacanang earlier called for a boycott of the black coral items.

Lorenzo asked: “How much of the government budget assigned to [agriculture] is for sustainable fisheries and new formulas for food security? And, how much of those budgets filter down to the local governments who manage the front lines?  Is the private sector being engaged to establish sustainable formulas?  Are there any incentives and rewards in place for workable solutions?”