ALARMED over reports of a “sharp decline” in fish catch in Mindanao by 2050, Senator Loren Legarda has urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to boost efforts in rehabilitating the country’s coral reefs and marine ecosystems.
According to a 2013 World Bank study, warmer sea temperatures and ocean acidification will decrease marine fish capture by about 50 percent in southern Philippines by 2050.
“We have one of the world’s richest ecosystems, but several factors, including unsustainable fishing practices, urbanization and climate change, have been posing serious threats to our seas,” said Legarda.
“Oceans have acidified, having absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide emitted which has resulted in coral bleaching,” she said.
She added:”For an archipelagic country, this unraveling scenario is a nightmare because it will ultimately affect our food security.”
Legarda noted that coral reefs are the food basket for the fish. A square kilometer of healthy coral reef may yield about 30 tons of seafood every year.
But she deplored that 94 percent of the country’s corals are “in fair or poor condition, they will not be able to produce fish enough for our needs.”
She said the destruction of coral reefs would mean less fish population, which would translate to lower fish catch and lower protein for the people.
“It is estimated that 80 percent of the animal protein requirement of Filipinos come from our seas,” she said.
The DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) said less than one percent of the country’s 2.7 million hectares of coral reefs remain in “excellent” condition and five percent in good condition.
These excellent coral reefs are found in Apo Reef, Tubbataha Reef, in the Verde Island Passage, and in Apo Island.
She earlier urged the DENR to work with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and academic institutions, such as the UP Marine Science Institute, Silliman University, and University of San Carlos in Cebu, in coming up with programs for marine conservation and coral rehabilitation, as well as with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for strict law enforcement.
Last year, Legarda had urged the DENR to immediately address the worsening state of the country’s marine ecosystems by creating a major program for coral restoration just like the National Greening Program (NGP).
As a result, P500 million was allocated for the coral restoration program in the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the DENR to implement.