|Ideas for Action : Save, Recycle and Do Not Pollute (IIRR, 1992, 146 p.)|
Coastal resources conservation
The Philippines faces immense challenges. The urgent need for economic progress comes under conditions of a booming population, insufficient development resources and overexploited natural resources. Being an archipelago with an extensive coast line (17,000 km²) and territorial waters more then seven times its total land area, the country's coasts are characterized by mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, seaweed beds, beaches and coral reefs. However, due to pressures from an increasing population and the drive towards industrial development, these coastal resources have been exploited such that conservation and protection have been overlooked.
From an original mangrove vegetation of approximately 500,000 ha in the 1920s, about 130,000 ha are left today, with only about a third representing old growths or mature trees. Most of these forests have already been converted to aquaculture ponds. Potential yields from coral reefs have been found at a range of 0.8 to 5 t/km²/year, yet it has been observed that intensively exploited reefs in the Philippines yield as much as 14-20 t/km²/year. Regretably, this cannot be sustained. Fish yields are not only a function of how much fishing but also of the kind of fishing. Fish production can be reduced immensely by habitat destruction. This includes destructive fishing practices such as the use of dynamite, poisons and gears like seines and trawls which scrape across the bottom and disrupt the production of fish food or spawning of fish. Also, coastal areas functionally serve as the receptacle of most, if not all, waste materials that are generated by land-based activities such as agriculture, aquaculture and mining. Indiscriminate logging, on the other hand, promotes erosion that leads to sedimentation of rivers and eventually the coastal waters. This effectively suffocates marine organisms. At present, live coral cover stands at 33,036 km² with only an estimated five percent classified to be in excellent condition. This lamentable situation must be changed.
Below are various ways by which sustainable use can be effected.
1. Individual Level
· Conservation is not the sole responsibility of the authorities. Each person should do his or her share in ensuring that the environment is adequately protected.
· Be aware of pertinent laws and follow them (e.g., use non-destructive fishing methods).
· Reuse materials (e.g., paper, plastic) to lessen the garbage produced.
· Use recycled paper. This means that less trees will be cut in the process.
· Throw rubbish in trash cans and avoid littering the beaches. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing and sanitary but this would also prevent polluting the water. Likewise, plastics which find their way into the sea could suffocate fishes. These plastics could also be accidentally swallowed by other organisms which could then prove fatal for them.
· Avoid stepping on corals. An inch of its branch, for example, actually took one year to grow.
· Do not catch endangered species (e.g., green turtles, dugongs).
· Do not patronize/buy products derived from endangered species (e.g., turtle shell).
· Avoid gathering live corals and shells for purposes of displaying them later.
· Report observed anomalies or violations of environmental and fisheries laws.
· Participate actively in productive community endeavours (e.g., being deputized to help law enforcers).
2. Community Level
· Indeed, there is strength in numbers. An organized and environmentally aware community (especially one with a strong fishermen's organization/cooperative) has the power to achieve more, in terms of number and scale. conservation and other related efforts.
· Seek advise from appropriate government agencies and/or tap nongovernment organizations for desired community organizing, financial and technical information and technologies.
· Establish marine protected areas, mangrove revegetation/seagrass transplantation sites and artificial reefs to rehabilitate degraded areas.
· Establish set-back lines (area from the waterline up to a designated distance) to ensure public access and to serve as protection against erosion.
· Designate areas for anchoring boats to minimize damage to seagrasses and corals.
· Advocate non-destructive fishing methods (e.g., use of net in aquarium fishing).
· Assist law enforcers in patrolling fishing areas.
· Engage in ecologically sound tourism activities and appropriate livelihood projects to augment income or a different source of living from capture fisheries while implementing long-term projects such as mangrove reforestation.
· Establish support facilities (e.g., cooperatives) to ensure greater returns. This should further motivate fisherfolks to continue with their conservation efforts.
· Support health programs with special emphasis on discouraging undue population growth and promotion of proper industrial and domestic waste disposal.
· Share experiences through fisherfolk-to-fisherfolk technology development dissemination and promotion activities. In the process, stronger links can be established among fishermen's organizations.
3. National Level
The adoption of policies supportive of conservation would ensure complementary national activities.
Policies on environmental education, the implementation of zoning in appropriate areas, strengthening institutional capabilities and consultation with the people should be given serious consideration. It is also important to note that pollution problems may very well increase as industrialization increases in the tropics, particularly under impetus from some of the more developed countries to transfer the most polluting industries to developing countries.
If necessary, legislation should be given more teeth or incentives be provided in order to improve law enforcement practices. This includes effective control of the availability of blasting caps that are sometimes used in blast fishing.
In summary, the rate of exploitation can be checked through the concerted efforts of all sectors.
Ideas for Action:
A Technology Information Kit November 23 - 28, 1992