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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
January, 1998 Vol. 1 No.1

Coastal Alert





Teaching Fishers to Fish
All in a Day's Work
Dangerous Mix
In Dry Straits
Fishing on the Edge
Greenhouse Gas Conference: All Hot Air?
Green Vote ... Of Sorts
Scientists Speak Out


Teaching Fishers to Fish
How do you convince illegal fishers to clean up their act? Teach them better ways to fish, or so believes the International Marinelife Alliance Philippines (IMA), a non-government environmental organization and implementing partner of the Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP) in Cebu City.

          IMA recently trained fishers on Olango Island off Mactan, Cebu in the use of the environment-friendly barrier net as an alternative to sodium cyanide, a poisonous substance used for gathering live marine ornamental fish.

          In a statement released last November, Alejandro C. Ansula, field director of the Destructive Fishing Reform Program of IMA, underscored the importance of taking aquarium fish gatherers away from destructive fishing techniques. "Recent studies have shown that most of the coastal fishing areas around the country are choking to death, if not already dead," he said. "Illegal fishing (by explosives, cyanide and other banned and destructive fishing practices), overfishing, illegal conversions of mangroves and shallow fishery (into vacation resorts and seafood farms), and the environmental nightmare of pollution, beach litter and erosion have taken their toll on the country’s nearshore fishing grounds. Our fishery experts are one in saying that if present renewal programs failed to turn the tide in favor of revival, the country would be surrounded by ‘fishless seas’ at the turn of the century."

All in a Day’s Work
162,300 kilos. That’s the amount of trash collected from beaches by some 30,000 volunteers who participated in last September’s International Coastal Cleanup Day (ICC), partial reports from the field indicate. Participation cut across many sectors -- local government units, line agencies, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard and its civilian arm, the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, schools, non-governmental organizations, corporate and business groups, and community residents were all represented.

          "The message that the ICC sought to bring across -- that garbage is everybody’s problem and responsibility -- seemed to strike a responsive chord among the various sectors," noted Rebecca Pestaño-Smith, information education and communication coordinator of the Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP), which facilitated the cleanup in several areas in the Visayas and Mindanao as well as in San Vicente, Palawan and Infanta, Quezon. A major outcome of the ICC was the institutionalization of the coastal cleanup by the governments of Lapu-lapu City and Cebu City, which have adopted measures to include coastal areas in their ‘clean and green’ programs.

          The event was part of a yearly cleanup campaign coordinated internationally by the Washington-based Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) and in the Philippines by the non-governmental organization International Marinelife Alliance Philippines. Data from the Philippine cleanup will be sent to CMC and will be included in a database to be analyzed by scientists in their search for a solution to the world’s marine pollution problem.

Dangerous Mix
Put mercury into the sea and it spells trouble. The dumping of mine tailings directly into the Murciellagos Bay in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental in southern Philippines has taken its toll on fishery resources there. A November 27, 1997 report from the Department of Agriculture (DA) said high levels of mercury were detected in fish samples from the bay, which may require a ban on selling fish caught in the area. The report said mercury was found in fish, shellfish, water and soil collected from five spots along the bay. Some samples contained as much as 612 parts per billion (ppb) of mercury, way above the tolerable limit of 500 ppb.

          No incidence of mercury poisoning has so far been reported among people living near the bay area, but a DA official said tests must be conducted "immediately." Mercury, a heavy, silver-white metallic element used by small and large-scale miners to process ore into gold, is a slow-acting poison that can have devastating effects on the brain. Philippine Daily Inquirer.

In Dry Straits
Faucets are running dry in Metro Manila, for 12 hours each day at least. Since December 1, water rationing was implemented in several areas of the metropolis following the steady decline of water levels in the Angat and La Mesa dams, which supply 97 percent of the water needs of 14 million residents. Water production was reduced from 1,700 million liters per day (mld) in June to 1,150 mld in December.

          Authorities say the current water crisis is an offshoot of the El Niño, which has brought an unusually early onset of dry weather in some parts of the Philippines, including Metro Manila. Some are not too quick to blame the El Niño, however, saying the crisis could have been averted with better water management and the timely rehabilitation of the Metro Manila’s aging water distribution system.

          The term El Niño originally referred to a change in surface currents along the coasts of Peru and Chile. It is now generally used to describe a complex interaction of ocean and atmosphere that links the entire planet and causes extreme changes in weather patterns around the world.

Fishing on the Edge
It’s an old issue that keeps resurrecting itself: More and more people with bigger and more efficient fishing gear chasing after fewer and smaller fish. In Ilocos region in northern Philippines, 12,000 fishermen recently asked Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos to effect the immediate enforcement of an administrative order banning commercial fishing in the Lingayen Gulf for five years. A federation of fishermen’s cooperatives said the continued operation of commercial fishing boats in the Gulf is leaving marginal fishermen with precious little from which to eke out a living. "We are now starving and our children have stopped schooling because these big-time fishermen are getting the lion’s share of the fish catch in the Gulf," said the federation’s spokesman. If the administrative order is not implemented immediately, he warned, the fishing industry in Ilocos region will "die."

          A recent study on Lingayen Gulf’s resources indicates that the Gulf can accommodate only 15-20 medium-size commercial fishing boats with the municipal water boundary set at 7 km from the shoreline. The study also notes that, from 1988 to 1995, fish catch in the Gulf decreased by about 12 percent every year.

          In a related development, a police director met with officials and fisher leaders in Bataan, a peninsula shielding Manila Bay from the South China Sea, to appeal for the community’s support of police efforts to stop illegal fishing in Manila Bay. "Our campaign against [illegal fishing] will be more effective if the community itself will join hands with the government in going after illegal fishermen," he said.

          Observers were cynical, however. If the police is really serious in going after illegal fishers, said one, all they have to do is keep watch in the public markets and they will see enough evidence to apprehend the vendors. By M. Supnad in Manila Bulletin

Greenhouse Gas Conference: All Hot Air?
Well, it’s nothing to write home about, at least according to Mark Mwandosya, spokesman for the developing countries and China at UN-sponsored global warming talks held last December in Kyoto, Japan. Five days into the 10-day conference, Mwandosya said, referring to proposed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, "The substance, the real substance of these negotiations, the core issue... there is nothing."

          The bone of contention was a demand by the United States for new commitments from developing nations which Washington says was critical to its joining a Kyoto protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Developing countries have long contended that industrialized nations, because they account for about two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions on this planet, must first commit themselves to significant reductions before they can ask others to do the same. "The accord so far is not something one can write home about in terms of the performance of our partners in terms of their present obligations," Mwandosya said. "From that perspective really there is no moral justification on the part of anybody to ask us at this stage... to take on [new] commitments."

          According to UN estimates, current emission trends are likely to cause average global temperatures to rise 1.0 to 3.5 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. AFP

Green Vote ... Of Sorts
It’s a cinch: Urbanization and environmental deterioration are the two most difficult challenges developing countries will be facing in the next century, according to survey results released recently by the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (Japan) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The survey was conducted among leading world experts (high ranking government officials, top management and private companies, university professors and journalists) from 50 developing countries who participated in an international symposium to commemorate International Cooperation Day in October 1996.

          Ranking first in the experts’ list are the problems that arise from rapid urbanization, including falling standards of living, slum creation, water shortages, traffic congestion, excessive vehicle exhaust emissions, industrial and household air pollution, river and sea water pollution, scarce waste disposal facilities, and inadequate disaster preparation. Environmental deterioration was second in their list, but concerns again centered on the urban environment, particularly in Asia.

          UN statistics show that urban populations in developing countries have grown explosively, more than tripling from 470 million in 1960 to 1.44 billion in 1990.

Scientists Speak Out
When scientists speak with one voice, the media, the public and decision makers pay attention. The time is ripe for scientists to make a public statement on threats to marine biodiversity and the need for action to conserve it. A statement was drafted by Marine Conservation Biology Institute (MCBI) and sent to prominent scientists who offered many improvements and signed on. MCBI is now circulating the Troubled Waters statement for signatures to marine scientists and conservation biologists (senior scientists and scientists-in-training as well).

          More than 400 endorsements were gathered at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology in June, and over the past several months hundreds more were received from over 60 countries and territories! It is hoped that this statement will serve as a wake-up call for the general public and policy makers, and carry the message that significant changes are required in how we treat and manage the oceans.

          Please read the following Troubled Waters statement and consider signing on. E-mail endorsements are fine, though please make sure to include your name, title and affiliation.

          A copy of the statement can also be found at MCBI’s website:

Troubled Waters: A Call for Action

We, the undersigned marine scientists and conservation biologists, call upon the world’s citizens and governments to recognize that the living sea is in trouble and to take decisive action. We must act quickly to stop further severe, irreversible damage to the sea’s biological diversity and integrity.

          Marine ecosystems are home to many phyla that live nowhere else. As vital components of our planet’s life support systems, they protect shorelines from flooding, break down wastes, moderate climate and maintain a breathable atmosphere. Marine species provide a livelihood for millions of people, food, medicines, raw materials and recreation for billions, and are instrinsically important.

          Life in the world’s estuaries, coastal waters, enclosed seas and oceans is increasingly threatened by:

1. overexploitation of species
2. physical alteration of ecosystems
3. pollution
4. introduction of alien species
5. global atmospheric change.

          Scientists have documented the extinction of marine species, disappearance of ecosystems and loss of resources worth billions of dollars. Overfishing has eliminated all but a handful of California’s white abalones. Swordfish fisheries have collapsed as more boats armed with better technology chase ever fewer fish. Northern right whales have not recovered six decades after their exploitation supposedly ceased. Cyanide and dynamite fishing are destroying the world’s richest coral reefs. Bottom trawling is scouring continental shelf seabeds from the poles to the tropics. Mangrove forests are vanishing. Logging and farming on hillsides are exposing soils to rains that wash silt into the sea, killing kelps and reef corals. Nutrients from sewage and toxic chemicals from industry are overnourishing and poisoning estuaries, coastal waters and enclosed seas. Millions of seabirds have been oiled, drowned by longlines, and deprived of nesting beaches by development and nest-robbing cats and rats. Alien species introduced intentionally or as stowaways in ships’ ballast tanks have become dominant species in marine ecosystems around the world. Reef corals are succumbing to diseases or undergoing mass bleaching in many places. There is no doubt that the sea’s biological diversity and integrity are in trouble.

          To reverse this trend and avert even more widespread harm to marine species and ecosystems, we urge citizens and governments worldwide to take the following five steps:

  1. Identify and provide effective protection to all populations of marine species that are significantly depleted or declining, take all measures necessary to allow their recovery, minimize bycatch, end all subsidies that encourage overfishing and ensure that use of marine species is sustainable in perpetuity.
  2. Increase the number and effectiveness of marine protected areas so that 20% of Exclusive Economic Zones and the Highs Seas are protected from threats by the Year 2020.
  3. Ameliorate or stop fishing methods that undermine sustainability by harming the habitats of economically valuable marine species and the species they use for food and shelter.
  4. Stop physical alternation of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems that harms the sea, minimize pollution discharged at sea or entering the sea from the land, curtail introduction of alien marine species and prevent further atmospheric changes that threaten marine species ecosystems.
  5. Provide sufficient resources to encourage natural and social scientists to undertake marine conservation biology research needed to protect, restore and sustainably use life in the sea.

          Nothing happening on Earth threatens our security more than the destruction of our living systems. The situation is so serious that leaders and citizens cannot afford to wait even a decade to make major progress toward these goals. To maintain, restore and sustainably use the sea’s biological diversity and the essential products and services that it provides, we must act now.

end of statement

Endorsements can be made to

          MCBI is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to advancing the sicence of marine conservation biology. To learn more about MCBI, visit or write to:

Aaron Tinker
Program Assistant
Marine Conservation Biology Institute
15806 NE 47th Court
Redmond, WA 98052-5208 USA
fax (425) 883 3017




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