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

Coastal Alert





Self-sufficiency in fish for RP?
Ammonium nitrate traders watched
RP-Palau fisheries deal sought
Senator urges, Don’t lift ban on clam exports
World’s smallest fish endangered
Carrageenan exporters worry about lack of raw materials
Researchers warn: DDT contaminating ocean
Marine plant is potential cancer cure
Upstream: Two Cebu rivers rated "AA"; fish kill hits Barangas river

Self-sufficiency in fish for RP?
A fisheries industry plan supported by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Chamber of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (CFAR) says the Philippines can become self-sufficient in fish within five years if it will put in place and implement proper fish conservation and management measures.

According to the plan, the country’s fisheries production can be accelerated to 2.65 million metric tons in 2004 from a projected 2.13 million tons in 1999 if the country’s fishery resources are managed properly; the fisheries sector is given stronger support in terms of policy, regulation and market; and post-harvest support facilities are provided.

The plan estimates that commercial marine fisheries can contribute an additional 160,000 tons of fish through distant fishing fleet operations, expansion of fishing grounds in international waters, control of poaching by foreign fishers in Philippine waters, establishment of infrastructure facilities at the Pacific seaboard, and reduction of post-harvest losses.

The contribution of municipal fisheries is expected to level off because of overfishing and the degradation of aquatic ecosystems, but aquaculture is seen to offset any losses, contributing an additional 363,000 tons of fish mainly from brakishwater and seacage farms.

A study done by PCAMRD noted that fish consumption among Filipinos has been declining. Per capita fish consumption dropped from 31 kg in 1995 to 27 kg in 1997, or an average of 80 grams of fish per day. "Filipinos are consuming 20% less fish today compared to 1993," said PCAMRD.

Population growth has outpaced the growth rate of the country’s fisheries sector; increasing demand for a diminishing return has in turn triggered price increases.

The growth rate of the fisheries sector for 1995-97 was between 0.84% and 1.47%; population, meanwhile, grew by 2.4%. The average retail price of milkfish, the most important cultured fish in the country, increased 123% between 1994 and 1997.

To partly fill up the estimated annual deficit of 489,196 tons, the Philippines increased its fish imports 18% from 1995 to 1997. R.A. Fernandez, The Philippine Star, 02.21.99

Ammonium nitrate traders watched
The Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) is closely watching eight commercial establishments that sell or store ammonium nitrate. This is part of the CPPO’s drive to stop illegal fishing in seven northern Cebu towns, where dynamite fishing has reportedly remained unabated: Daanbantayan, San Remigio, Medellin, Bogo, Madridejos, Sta. Fe and Bantayan. The CPPO has created a special task force to monitor fishing operations in these towns.

The firms under surveillance are reported to have ammonium nitrate stocks ranging from 5 to 200 tons. There is no existing national law the explicitly prohibits the distribution of ammonium nitrate, which is used as fertilizer in many areas in the Philippines. But local governments may regulate the sale of the substance, which is also used as an ingredient in making dynamite.

RP-Palau fisheries deal sought
The Philippines will seek a fisheries agreement with the Republic of Palau to "improve" relations with its Pacific island neighbor. Diplomatic ties with Palau turned sour after Palau President Kuniwo Nakamura strongly protested the continued encroachment of Filipino fishers in Palau’s exclusive economic zone.

Foreign Undersecretary Benjamin Domingo said the accord had been "tabled" for negotiations in April by DFA representatives and members of Palau’s parliamentary union in a recent meeting in Manila. He said the Department of Foreign Affairs would seek the establishment of a licensing system that would allow Filipinos to fish in Palau’s waters. The accord is expected to help solve problems of encroachment by Filipino fishers in Palau’s waters.

Palau, the largest group of islands in Micronesia, lies 530 miles southeast of the Philippines. It has a population of 17,000 occupying an area of 188 square miles—about a third of Camiguin, Mindanao’s smallest island province. Domingo said about 5,000 Filipinos are working in Palau.

The foreign office is also looking at the possibility of establishing a "Palau-Mindanao or a Palau-Philippines Friendship Association or anything that cement relationship between countries," Domingo said, stressing that the moves were not a reaction to a diplomatic protest and the reported threat by Nakamura to sever ties with the Philippines.

He also said the government was seeking agreements on the protection of overseas contract workers (OCWs) in Palau, the establishment of shipping linkages between Palau and Mindanao, and the promotion of trade and tourism. By Jowel F. Canuday in Philippine Daily Inquirer, 02.01.99

Senator urges, Don’t lift ban on clam exports
Philippine Senator Loren Legarda urged her colleagues in Congress to reject any move to lift the ban on the gathering, sale and export of the endangered giant clam.

Legarda, who heads the Commission on Appointment’s environment and natural resources committee, warned that the lifting of the ban on the commercial exploitation of the "boring clam" would set a "bad precedent" that could threaten other endangered wildlife.

"If we lift the ban on the export of the giant clam now, what will prevent other quarters from later on pushing for the lifting of the ban on the exploitation of other wildlife species such as the whale shark and the bottlenose dolphin?" she argued.

Legarda was reacting to a strong lobby being mounted by a Japanese firm, Yuki Aquaculture Corporation, to allow the export of clams. House Deputy Speaker Alfredo Abueg and Rep. Vicente Sandoval, House ecology committee chair, earlier endorsed the lifting of the ban, saying it would boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings. The city council of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, however, passed a resolution opposing the lifting of the ban.

"Instead of allowing the exploitation of endangered or threatened marine life, we should strengthen controls to protect and preserve them," said Legarda. The Philippine Star, 01.24.99

World’s smallest fish endangered
The world’s smallest fish is fast going into extinction. The remaining stocks of sinarapan (Mistrichthys luzonensis Smith) in Lakes Manapao and Katugday in Camarines Sur are rapidly disappearing as a result of overfishing and the use of collapsible Y-shaped push nets, which have destroyed the breeding, feeding and refuge areas of the fish species.

The uncontrolled expansion of tilapia cages in the area has also contributed to the decline (tilapia preys on the sinarapan). In 1979, stocks of sinarapan in Lakes Buhi and Bato, also in Camarines Sur, nearly vanished as tilapia cage culture spread dramatically. In Lake Buhi, where there are about 6,000 tilapia cages, fishery experts are urging loal officials to establish sanctuaries for the sinarapan.

"Our focus is to rehabilitate the standing stocks of the world’s smallest fish through active community involvement," said Victor Soliman, head of a research team looking at strategies to increase the sinarapan’s population. Among the conservation strategies recommended are the regulated use of 4.1mm mesh-size nets and a closed season from June to August and from October to November to allow stocks to spawn. There is also a need to demarcate tilapia production areas and sanctuaries for the sinarapan. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 02.21.99

Carrageenan exporters worry about lack of raw materials
It will be a good year for Philippine exporters of carrageenan, if raw materials do not run out and the "banks will not squeeze us."

Carrageenan exporter Benson Dakay, whose company exports the biggest volume of refined and semi-refined carrageenan from the Philippines, says he expects the company’s revenues to increase this year compared to 1997. The industry suffered a downturn in 1998 following Asia’s protracted economic slump. Last year, carrageenan exports declined 20.6% to US$100.378 million from US$126.531 million in 1997.

Carrageenan markets in Russia and Brazil have yet to recover, says Dakay, but the US market continues to grow. The Philippines accounts for US$50 million of the US$80-million US market.

"What we have to solve is the raw material supply problem," says Dakay. Abnormal weather patterns have affected the production of Eucheuma denticulatum, the primary source of Philippine-produced carrageenan.

Dakay’s firm, Shemberg Corporation, is the biggest producer of carrageenan in Asia and the third largest in the world with 2,000 direct employees and about 35,000 seaweed farmer-suppliers. It has been affected by the Asian financial crisis and the peso depreciation, and is heavily in debt. Dakay says a rehabilitation plan for the company is now in place, with a consortium of 20 banks agreeing to a restructuring of the firm’s debts. Cebu Daily News, Sun.Star Daily, 02.11.99

Researchers warn: DDT contaminating ocean
DDT and other chemicals in the waters off the coast of Los Angeles, California that were left by decades of dumping may not be decaying as scientists had thought. New evidence shows that it may simply be spreading.

One of the world’s largest producers of DDT was connected to the Los Angeles County sewer system during the 1950s and 1960s and a significant quantity of the now-banned pesticide passed through the sewer system and out into the ocean to settle in the sediments of the Palos Verdes Shelf. Other substances have also since been discharged through the same sewer system into the marine environment near Palos Verdes. These contaminants mixed with organic matter and other solids, as well as ordinary sediment particles, to form a contaminated sediment deposit on the continental shelf and slope. They continue to impact sediment-dwelling organisms, fish and birds.

Scientists have been measuring the levels of DDT in the offshore sediments and found that these have declined since production was banned in June 1972. Marine scientists believed the decline was primarily due to the substance’s chemical decay over time.

But a University of Southern California Sea Grant study published this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology shows that rather than decaying, DDT and other contaminants appear to be spreading through the water. Worse, a computer model indicates that the transport of these contaminants from the sediment into the water column can happen even in the absence of any physical disturbance. According to the study, ocean currents may be transporting significant quantities of DDT and other substances from the Palos Verdes Shelf to adjacent estuaries and bays. Environmental News Network (, 02.05.99

Marine plant is potential cancer cure

   Portiera hornemanii

A marine plant found in the Philippines offers what may be the key to a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) is testing halomon from the marine alga Portieria horsemaii, one of several thousands of life specimens – flora, fauna and microbial – from the Philippines currently being studied by bio-prospectors.

There is one catch, at least as far as the Philippines is concerned: the US group is said to have secured a patent for the halomon. A non-governmental organization called Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Ikauunlad ng Agham Pang-agrikultura (Masipag) has raised concern that the country is rapidly losing its genetic resources to foreign prospectors. The NCI has reportedly contracted the University of Illinois in Chicago to conduct specimen collection in Southeast Asia and has ongoing "collaborative work with local institutions such as the Philippine National Museum and the Oceanographic Sorting Center of Silliman University in Dumaguete City.

Aside from the NCI, the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and the Philippine National Museum are also collecting Philippine flora. "Over 100,000 specimens have been collected in the most interesting and endangered areas of the country," says Masipag. Among the country’s endemic resources already patented are ylang-ylang, banaba, sambong, lagundi and even nata de coco, a product of a fermentation process using coconut water, whose patent is Japanese-owned. Cebu Daily News, 02.03.99

Upstream: Two Cebu rivers rated "AA"; fish kill hits Barangas river

Despite rapid industrialization in Cebu, two rivers in Dalaguete, Argao and Carmen towns have been graded "AA," that is, fit to use as drinking and bathing water.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been conducting tests on the two rivers every month since about a year ago. The agency found the headwaters of the two rivers "very clean," but water quality declines near the lowlands, where pollution from residential buildings, piggeries and factories have taken a toll on the water systems.

Luyang River, in particular, has excellent biodiversity. The water of this river comes from the 50-foot Mangitngit Falls and spreads to four tributaries. The Dalaguete-Argao River, on the other hand, has been found safe for swimming.

In Batangas, meanwhile, a fish kill was reported at the Palico River in the towns of Lian and Nasugbu early this month. The river, which drains into the Nasugbu Bay, was reportedly contaminated by some unknown pollutants discharged upstream.

Lian and Nasugbu residents have been fighting for the closure of three alcohol firms operating in the area. Cebu Daily News, 02.03.99. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 02.06.99



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