Samar's pearl oysters threatened
Expert says govt programs fail to reverse decline
Coral bleaching reported in Palawan
Global climate changes affect ecosystems
Samar starts biodiversity project
E-post: Reader's suggestions on caring for our coast
Samar's pearl oysters threatened
Pollution, dynamite fishing, and overcollection threaten the highly
priced -- some say priceless -- pearl oysters of Guian, a coastal town
in Eastern Samar where, offshore, three of the world's most expensive
pearls are harvested.
The coast off Guian is home to the concha blanca oyster (Pinctada maxima),
also known in Australia as the South Sea Pearl. A strand of 35-40 pearls
ranging from 10 mm to 20 mm in diameter is priced at $190,000.
The area is also home to the concha negra oyster (Pinctada margaritifera)
known as the black-lipped oyster, which produces a large "black"
pearl commonly found in French Polynesia. A two-strand necklace of this
type of pearl is worth $200,000.
These two oyster species are four times the size of the Japanese akoya
oyster, the source of most of the pearls traded worldwide. A high-quality
akoya necklace is worth $3,290.
Guian is home as well to the edible brown-lipped oyster (Pteria penguin),
which is also used for pearl production.
In 1997, the total live oysters collected in the area was 800 pieces,
less than one-third the annual average of 2,700 pieces recorded in the
1970s to the mid-1980s.
"The high demand for pearl oysters could lead to unconfined harvesting
that may wipe out the natural stocks," said Pedro Atega, a science
research specialist at the Coastal Zone and Freshwater Ecosystems Research
Division of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources.
Oysters must be four years old or older to reproduce. Only 1-10 eggs
out of one million reach the adult stage. Atega noted that pollution
from municipal wastes "has become a threat to the sensitive oyster,"
and dynamite fishing is destroying its natural habitat. There is a need
to set up an oyster sanctuary or hunting reserve in Guian, he added.
This should serve as natural "banks" for the production of
"Since oyster gathering is only a sideline for local fisherfolk,
priority should be given to oyster culture," said Atega. There
is a need to study the biology of the oyster and determine what levels
of extraction are sustainable, he added.
Local trade in oysters started in 1977. Buyers would usually buy oysters
from pearl divers twice a month during the peak season from February
to September. Oyster sizes range from 8.89 cm to 20.32 cm. Until the
mid-1980s, live oyster prices per kilo (about 3-4 pieces) in the local
market were in the P100-P140 range. These soared to P200-P250 a kilo
in the mid-1990s, reflecting the growing demand for, as well as the
dwindling supply of, live oysters, said Atega. The Philippine Star,
Expert says govt programs fail to reverse
decline of fisheries
Despite about $370 million in loans, grants and technical assistance
from financial institutions, and billions of pesos in counterpart and
research and development funds from the government, the country's fishery
resources continue to be degraded, and fisherfolk are as poor as ever.
"Most of the country's mangroves, seagrass, algal beds and coral
reefs are gone. Estuaries, the most valuable ecosystem in terms of derivable
goods and services (estimated at $23,000 per hectare per year) are largely
polluted," said Flor Lacanilao, a professor at the Marine Science
Institute of the University of the Philippines.
Since 1991, municipal fish catch has been declining, and government
programs and contracted projects have not been able to reverse the resource
degradation and reduce fisherfolk poverty. Illegal practices such as
overfishing and habitat destruction have contributed to such degradation.
Lacanilao said illegal fishing starts with the entry of commercial fishers
in municipal waters, resulting in unfair competition for municipal fishers.
In the Bohol Sea, he noted, commercial fish catch increased from 14,400
tons to 69,800 tons from 1987 to 1997. Municipal catch, on the other
hand, decreased from 34,700 tons to 13,100 tons. In the Guimaras Strait,
commercial fish catch increased from 7,400 tons to 25,600 tons from
1987 to 1995, while the share of municipal catch to total catch went
down from 71.2% to 17.2%. In the Moro Gulf, the same story has unfolded.
Commercial catch rose from 60,500 tons to 85,400 tons during the period
in review, while municipal catch plummeted from 141,400 tons to 67,100
tons. In the Sulu Sea, commercial fish catch soared from 75,500 tons
to 199,500 tons, and municipal fish catch went south from 141,400 tons
to 67,100 tons.
Lacanilao pointed out that based on the value of fish catch in 1995,
the gross share of commercial fishers was 11 times that of municipal
fishers, or about P420,000 for every commercial fisher against P38,000
for the municipal fisher. Commercial and municipal fishers have long
competed for their main target fishes such as anchovies, tunas, sardines
and mackerels, which accounted for 60% of commercial catch and 30% of
municipal catch in 1995.
These statistics underscore the growing competition between commercial
and municipal fishers, and magnify the unfair advantage commercial fishers
have over the low-financed, ill-equipped small fishers. Such competition
has already resulted in overfishing and the use of destructive gears
that destroy fish habitats.
Lacanilao said a possible solution to this problem is community-based
law enforcement which requires coastal fisherfolk to organize themselves
into fishing associations that will be granted exclusive legal rights
to manage the fishing grounds in their locality. E.Generoso, MNC in
The Philippine Star, 12.20.98
Coral bleaching confirmed in Palawan
Higher-than-normal water temperatures brought on by the recent occurrence
of the El Niño phenomenon are believed to be the direct cause
of a coral bleaching event observed all over southern Philippines earlier
this year. Researchers from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development
(PCSD) and the Cebu-based US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded
Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP) of the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR) confirmed such warm water coral bleaching
in four reef sites in Port Barton, Palawan.
The researchers conducted the survey last September at Manta Ray Reef,
Paraiso Reef, and two sites at Albaguen Island. They reported "excessive
bleaching," which was "recorded at all sites to a high degree."
The highest incidence of coral bleaching (25%) was recorded near a proposed
marine sanctuary at Albaguen Island, which also had the second highest
cover of dead hard coral.
Coral bleaching is often a sympton of pollution-induced stress but may
also be a response to natural factors such as changes in water temperature,
salinity levels and possibly ultraviolet light. The El Niño of
1982-83 was said to have resulted in the bleaching of large areas of
coral reef around te world. Bleaching events have been linked to the
occurrence of temporary "hot spots," local areas of unusually
high temperatures caused by changes in atmospheric circulation during
an El Niño. with reports from R. Jordan, US PCV
Global climate changes affect ecosystems
Unprecedented and rapid climate changes are expected in the coming decades.
These will produce fast and extensive alteratios in the distribution
of woody vegetation through rapid mortality. The resulting "ecotone"
shifts, meaning boundary shifts between two ecosystems, are likely to
occur globally because semi-arid forests and woodlands are widespread
and sensitive to change, a new study reveals.
The study was conducted by environmental scientists at the US Department
of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and the US Geological Survey's
Mid-continent Ecological Science Center (USGA). It shows the fastest
climate-induced boundary shift ever documented, where the transition
zone between two ecosystems -- one dominated by ponderosa pine forest
and the other dominated by pinon-juniper woodland -- moved by two kilometers
in less than five years. This motion came as a result of a drought caused
by global climate change, the scientists reported in the proceedings
of the US National Academy of Sciences.
"This research shows how rapidly vegetation can respond to climate,"
said Dave Breshears of the Environmental Science Group in Los Alamos.
"It has significant implications for modelling how climate can
decimate vegetation in droughts like the one we studied, and for assessing
the impact of global climate change, a major scientific and social issue."
Breshears and another researcher, Craig Allen, studied the ecotone shift
between the ponderosa and pinon-juniper ecosystems by poring over detailed
aerial photographs taken from the 1930s through the 1970s. They also
conducted a variety of field surveys and reviewed historical information
to verify their findings.
"Previous studies have documented shifts that take place over decades
or even centuries, and they focus on birth and growth of vegetation,"
Allen said. "Our research shows that more attention should be paid
to mortality because the rapidity of the shift resulted from the death
of ponderosas as a result of the drought in the 1950s."
The ecotone not only moved rapidly over a relatively large distance,
the researchers said. The shift has persisted to the present, indicating
that the drought may have pushed the vegetation pattern over a threshold
from which it may be unlikely to recover.
Ecotones are important areas for study because the response of vegetation
to variations in climate is expected to be the most extreme on the boundaries.
Manila Bulletin, 12.20.98
Samar starts biodiversity project
Environmentalists are racing against the clock to protect the fragile
biodiversity in the 3,600-sq km Samar Island Forest Reserve (SIFR),
said to be one of the world's richest frontier of flora and fauna. The
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is spearheading
a seven- to ten-year massive conservation program, with funding support
from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Other key players
are local government units (LGUs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
people's organizations (Pos), and concerned government agencies and
As an initial step, the people behind the project launched the Samar
Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP), a 10-month preparatory effort that
aims to develop a full Global Environmental Facility (GEL) project for
the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity and other resources
within the SIFR. The project supports biodiversity conservation and
sustainable alternative livelihood within the buffer zones of these
protected areas. It also incorporates biodiversity conservation into
provincial and local development plans.
The third largest Philippine island after Luzon and Mindanao, Samar
is home to the rare Philippine Eagle. L. Rebamontan in Manila Bulletin,
President promises cleaner Metro
Manila in six months
The Estrada administration is giving itself six months to overhaul Metro
Manila's garbage collection and disposal system as part of its program
to promote a cleaner environment. "Give us six months to overhaul
the system," President Estrada said in the Christmas edition of
his weekly program JEEP ni Erap: Ang Pasada ng Pangulo aired over dzMM
and the Bureau of Broadcast Services-Radyo ng Bayan.
The President said he would personally supervise the cleanup of the
Pasig River, expressing confidence that this drive would produce notable
results in a year's time. As part of the cleanup campaign, his administration
will also push through with its relocation program for squatter-families
living along the Pasig River, which he expects to complete in two years.
"We'll relocate the squatters along the river and we will turn
the area into a park. We'll also put up riverside terminals for ferry
boats," the Chief Executive said. "In two years we will complete
this project. The river will be cleaned, you will have promenades, there
will be ferryboats to service the people."
The President stressed that the public must also help. "I wish
our people would be responsible enough to dispose of their garbage properly
so our garbage collectors won't be burdened too much," he said.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12.21.98
E-post: Reader's suggestions on caring for our