|Basic Concepts in Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Management: An Information Kit (International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR))|
|Freshwater and marine ecosystems|
Philippine marine fisheries
Major source of livelihood and food
Broadly, marine fishery pertains to the harvesting of the wild populations of marine animals. Philippine waters abound with a variety of marine organisms that are utilized for food and other industries (e.g., marine natural products, shellcraft). Because the country is an archipelago, marine fisheries are the primary source of livelihood in coastal areas. Moreover, fish and shellfish are major sources of protein in the diet of Filipinos. The most commercially important marine animals are: fish, molluscs (e.g., marine snails, mussels, squids); crustaceans (e.g., crabs, lobsters, shrimps) and echinoderms (e.g., sea urchins, sea cucumbers).
As in other parts of the world, the major fisheries in the Philippines are concentrated in waters overlying the continental shelf (shallow underwater extension of a continent; usually limited in depth to 200 m). This is because inshore waters have a much higher primary productivity than deep open-ocean waters and, therefore, support larger populations of marine organisms at all trophic levels. Of the total landed fish in the country (approximately 2m tons in 1987), 25 percept come from coral reefs (27,000 km² - total area nationwide) alone. It is estimated that a coral reef in a good condition can annually yield as much as 30 m tons of fish per km². Aside from fish, a majority of benthic (bottom-dwelling) marine invertebrates are harvested from coral reef and adjacent seagrass areas. A wide range of fishing gears are used to harvest the diverse marine resources in these productive and diverse ecosystems.
Declining marine populations and degraded habitats
There has to be a limit to the harvesting of natural populations. A significant fraction of the populations must be left as breeding stocks to replenish the population. Subsequently, juveniles must be allowed to grow to reproductive maturity. Otherwise, natural populations will progressively diminish and may become extinct.
There are clear signs that many of the Philippines' fishery resources are already overexploited. The average size of fish and invertebrates caught by fishermen has declined. Likewise, there is an increase in the fishing effort needed to catch the same amount of fish. The pressure of increased demand for food and poverty due to the rapidly increasing human population promotes the over exploitation of marine resources. Moreover, the degradation of marine habitats due to destructive fishing methods (e.g., blast and cyanide fishing) and sedimentation, particularly in near shore waters, has accelerated the decline of marine fisheries. Appropriate management measures that will allow our overexploited marine populations and degraded habitats to recover need to be urgently implemented.