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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
April, 1999 Vol. 2 No. 4

Coastal Alert





Fisheries agency to acquire research ship
Fishkill reported in Laguna de Bay
Red tide-causing organisms identified
Pasig River polluters get ‘awards’
Ocean wildlife threatened by El Niño effects
Pimentel revives proposal for fisheries department
Metro Manila’s first full waste management program begins
Mt. Province plans “fishponds in the sky”
RP now mass producer of crocodiles
La Niña fading?

Fisheries agency to acquire research ship
The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) will soon operate its own research and oceanographic vessel, the National Marine Fisheries and Development Center (NMFDG) said. Alma Dickson, NMFDC chief, the $18.52-million, 60-meter, 1,000-ton vessel being built in Spain is expected to be turned over to DA-BFAR in July. It will be called mv DA-BFAR.

The Philippine government will shoulder the maintenance and operating cost of the vessel, estimated at Php37.40 million a year. C. Caoile, Manila Bulletin, 04.05.99

Fishkill reported in Laguna de Bay; residents blame dynamite fishing
The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) is conducting an investigation on a massive fishkill that occurred recently at the Laguna de Bay shorelines in Jala-jala town. Losses from the fishkill, which was first observed on April 5 in two tilapia fish cages in the area, have reached "millions of pesos," according to initial reports. Residents said they believed the fishkill was caused by dynamite fishing, even as Jala-jala vice mayor Rodrigo Tuiza urged them to wait for LLDA to complete its investigation and release its report on the incident. M. Dominguez, Manila Bulletin, 04/07/99

Organisms causing red tide in Manila Bay identified
The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) reported that 90-100 percent of the phytoplankton samples collected from the shorelines of Manila Bay were identified as Noctiluca scintillans, a red tide microorganism that can cause fish and shrimp kills in cage cultures.

NAMRIA Administrator Liberato Manuel said scientists on board BRP Hydrographer Ventura conducted a Manila Bay Red Tide Monitoring Cruise in 12 sampling stations along the shorelines of Cavite, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan and Manila Bay.

Fish kills associated with the presence of N. scintillans have been observed in Indonesia and Thailand in the past. But while N. scintillans blooms have been reported in the Philippines, they have never been associated with any of the fish and shrimp kills reported here.

Manuel said the bloom does indicate that Manila Bay has become highly "eutrophicated", that is, its water is loaded with nutrients, resulting in an overproduction of plant organisms such as N. scintillans.

The Manila Bay monitoring cruise was undertaken as part of a program called "Application of Nuclear Techniques in Red Tide Concerns". Manuel said the program is being implemented by the International Atomic Energy Association and the Department of Science and Technology "to gather biological, chemical, geological and physical oceanographic data needed in determining the oceanographic conditions favorable for microorganisms to bloom." J. Jorvina, Manila Bulletin, 03.26.99

Pasig River polluters get 'awards'
Sagip Pasig Movement (Save Pasig Movement or SPM), an environment coalition group of 222 organizations bestowed the "Lason ng Pasig" (Poison of Pasig) 'awards' to six industrial firms in commemoration of this year's Earth Day. The six firms were Regent Foods Corporation (Pasig), Manufacturing Services and Trading Corporation (Pasig), International Food Snack Corporation (Pasig), Dowell Container and Packaging Corporation (Quezon City), Serg's Products (Cainta, Rizal), and Litton Mills (Rosario, Pasig). SPM called on the public to boycott the products of these firms until they have fully complied with environmental standards.

The Movement also urged consumers to actively patronize the products of companies that won its "Most Improved Industry" and "Dangal ng Pasig" (Honor of Pasig) awards. Nestle-Philippines UHT (Mandaluyong) bagged this year's "Dangal ng Pasig" award, while Goldilock's, which received the Lason 'award' in 1998, and Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines, a 1996 Lason 'awardee', were cited "Most Improved Industry Awardees for 1999."

SPM said polluters are ranked according to its biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), the primary parameter used by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to determine waste water effluent quality. Other parameters used are suspended solids, acidity/alkalinity and the presence of oil and grease.
SPM said this year's Lason recipients exceeded the legal and tolerable limits set by LLDA and DENR. Regent Foods, which produces the Snacku brand of snack foods, was also a 1997 Lason awardee. J. Botial, Philippine Star, 04.23.99

El Niño effects threaten ocean wildlife
But long-liners could wipe them out
El Niño, the cyclic Pacific heat wave that clocked up more than $100 billion of damage to the world in 1998, has not finished yet. More than 90 percent of penguin chicks and seal pups to be born in the Atlantic spring could perish in the knock-on effects of a few months of higher ocean temperatures 5,000 miles away, Antarctic scientists warn.

El Niño disturbs ocean patterns and blocks the seasonal arrival of nutrients off coasts. This means that plankton in polar waters have a smaller food supply, which in turn hits krill and other small Antarctic surface-dwellers.

"In a bad year they die out in huge numbers. Two years later, the penguins in South Georgia have a mass mortality of chicks," said Lloyd Peck of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. Scientists at British research bases at South Georgia and other Antarctic sites have observed death rates among penguin chicks of 98-99 percent after an El Niño.

Said Peck, "What you find is that two or three years after an El Niño, you will be counting chicks getting close to fledgling. And then over a two-week period they will all die. The parents just can't get enough food in for them."

El Niño, formally known as the Southern Oscillation, is a huge blister of unusually warm sea in the eastern Pacific which affects both ocean circulation and wind patterns, disrupting climate rhythms at huge distances.

The event that began at the end of 1997 has been blamed for lethal heat waves in India and Texas, late monsoons, fires in the Indonesian rainforests, floods in Bangladesh and China, mudslides in California and harvest failures in Africa. It has also been blamed for the "bleaching" of coral reefs, for a dramatic rise in diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever, for Hurricane Mitch which killed thousands in Central America, for an ice storm in southern United States - and even for plagues of rattlesnakes.

Still, said Peck, scavenging birds flourish after El Niño. Penguin and seal populations build up again. "Even if there are bad El Niños, there is still enough recruitment from the good years that the colony survives.

The real problem is that the Antarctic is also under threat from intensive commercial fishing. The albatross, which lives only in the southern ocean, has been destroyed in huge numbers by fishermen's "long lines" of thousands of baited hooks, and several whale species were brought to near extinction by commercial catchers in the first six decades of the century. "That's something that's outside the natural phenomenon," said Peck. "And it does look like we could lose the albatross species." Tim Radford, Guardian News Service, in Manila Bulletin, 03.29.99

Pimentel revives proposal for fisheries department
Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has revived the proposal to form a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) which will be tasked with protecting the country's vast fishing grounds and raising fish production.

Pimentel, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, said the creation of the new department is necessary considering that two-thirds of the country's territorial area consist of water covering a total area of 171 million hectares.

A significant number of Filipinos depend on fishing for livelihood, he added. "The life-giving support of Philippine waters and its bounties cannot be over-emphasized. It is, however, ironic that the government gives more attention to land-based agriculture over marine and other water-based food production activities."
Pimentel has filed Senate Bill 1537 creating the DFAR. Under this proposed bill, the DFAR will have the power to manage, develop, protect, conserve and utilize all fisheries and aquatic resources of the country. Municipal waters will remain under the jurisdiction of the local government units.

The proposed department will also be tasked to regulate the production, capture, processing and marketing of fisheries and marine products. This is to ensure that the country's marine wealth is exclusively used for the benefit of the Filipino people.
Pimentel said the creation of the DFAR will be a significant breakthrough in providing utmost protection to Philippine waters and marine resources. It will also give impetus to the government's continuing efforts to increase fish production to meet the demands of the country's fast-growing population.

The bill seeks to reinforce the state's policy to promote sustainable development and management of all fisheries and marine resources in Philippine waters, including the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and adjacent high seas, consistent with the objective of maintaining a sound ecological balance, protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment.

The DFAR will consist of the following offices: Office of the Secretary, Undersecretary for Fisheries Production and Utilization, Undersecretary for Fisheries Conservation and Management, Undersecretary for Operations, the National Fisheries Research and Aquatic Resource Management Council, the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, and the Office of Ocean and Marine Affairs. It will have the following bureaus: Bureau of Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries; Bureau of Post-Harvest and Fisheries Product Standards; Bureau of Fisheries Extension, Training and Support Services; and Bureau of Fishing Technology and Capture Fisheries.

Pimentel proposes a budget of Php5 billion for the operations and maintenance of the DFAR. Manila Bulletin, 04.25.99

Metro Manila's first full waste management program begins
Valenzuela City became the first area in Metro Manila to operate a full and integrated waste management program with the opening last Friday of a 2.8-hectare ecology center in one of its barangays (villages). The ecology center, located in Barangay Marulas, will serve as the operation center of the city's waste management program. Here, biodegradable wastes will be recycled into fertilizers.

Waste management officials said up to 60% of Metro Manila's total garbage will be recycled at the center. This can help ease the shortage of dumpsites in Metro Manila.

The ecology center will also house an office for the secretariat of the Valenzuela Environmental and Ecological Management Team, a training center, a display area for products made of recycled waste materials, and a composting facility for biodegradable wastes. W. Catapat, Manila Bulletin, 04.25.99

"Fishponds in the sky" planned
The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) is studying the aquaculture potential of the lakes of Danum, Lenneng and Gawaan in the municipalities of Sagada, Besao and Tadian in Mt. Province. The project is aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of tribal communities residing around the lakes. Residents will be tapped to set up fishponds in their "backyards."

Mt. Province, located 5,000 feet above sea level, is landlocked. It sources its supply of fish from Pangasinan, La Union and Bulacan. A DA-BFAR assessment team has, however, found that freshwater aquaculture is feasible in the area and could raise the province's local fish production. C. Caoile, Manila Bulletin, 04.25.99

RP now mass producer of crocodiles
The Philippines is now mass-producing crocodiles, an endangered and highly priced species, with the government entering into an agreement with six private firms for the breeding and dispersal of the reptiles. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Antonio H. Cerilles said the agreement calls for the breeding of some 5,600 crocodiles out of 79 heads and production of 35,000 of the reptiles by 2005.

Cerilles said crocodile hide is used in the manufacture of expensive bags, shoes, and belts, among others. It costs from $9 to $10 per linear centimeter; a pair of shoes made from crocodile can cost as much as $1,200, while a bag commands a price of $5,000. Manila Bulletin, 04.25.99

La Niña fading?
The current La Niña is on its way out, recent images from the US-French TOPEX/Poseidon satellite indicated. "The imagery of sea-surface heights taken this month by ocean-observing satellite shows cooler temperatures and lower sea levels across the Pacific Ocean, indicating that the equatorial Pacific is slowly returning to normal," Environmental News Network said in a report posted on its website ( last April 26.

While La Niña is fading, temperatures and the sea level remain high in the north and south Pacific Ocean, which means that "heat distribution in the Pacific Ocean remains dramatically out of balance," the report said.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that La Niña will last through June.



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