Save Philippine Seas

A shark finatic speaks up

Earl Xavier C. Go

Nurse by profession, shark fanatic at heart

I was fortunate enough to come to love sharks at an early age, around 7 or 8 years old. It’s an age when kids come to know that they love dogs, cats and even reptiles. While most kids asked for robots or Lego for birthdays and Christmas, I asked for videotapes or books on sharks. I learned to draw sharks, and every new book I got, I read in a week. Over the years, I’d say I’ve built up a significant collection of shark books, videos, posters, DVDs, and other shark memorabilia.

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Of late, I’ve taken to collecting miniature models of the different species. There’s a drive in me to know all there is about them even if I don’t have a PhD to back it up. I can tell Lamna nasus (porbeagle) from Lamna ditropis (salmon shark). I can even recognize most of the species commonly and not so commonly seen in photographs. Overall, you could say I’m a shark finatic!

Sharks hold my interest like no other. There isn’t one particular reason why I love them—there are a lot, actually. But if I were to pick one, it would be this: the first sharks appeared in the evolutionary timeline during the Devonian Period, around 450 million years ago. That’s a full 300 or so million years earlier than the first dinosaur and they’ve been virtually unchanged the last 100 or so million years, with the hammerheads being the relative “new kids on the block” since they appeared “just” 10 million years ago. 

Just think about how long that span of time is. We humans only came around 2 million years ago and yet, we make big news about finding this certain set of ancient human fossils like we just found Atlantis. Sharks would probably scoff at that and think, “Piece of cake!” I think that when something’s been around for that long a span of time, it definitely needs our respect and it’s worth studying.

When I got wind of the first-ever Philippine Shark Summit on social media, I was thinking how awesome it would be if I could get in. I didn’t even know I needed a formal invite! I sort of snuck in to the venue. I got in through one of the open doors on the balcony of the Provincial Social Hall! I figured I’d act like I was part of the whole thing and no one would probably notice.

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Once the presentations started, I was all eyes and ears. It amazed me to know how fisheries are actually affecting the local shark population. I knew it was bad, but the figures surprised me. In the workshops, I was fortunate that Anna [of Save Philippine Seas] was kind enough to allow me to join even after realizing I hadn’t been formally invited. Hearing everyone from different sectors such as government, fisheries, tourism, and youth speak their minds was an eye-opener for me on how the perception of sharks can change if only people were more aware.

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It has always been a dream of mine to be actively involved in shark conservation and God-willing, research. With so many shark nuts cramped into the same room and sharing the same beliefs as I do that sharks are totally awesome and need our help, it’s like someone flicked a switch in me.

I have decided to become all the more hands-on in fighting for the cause we all share. Shark Summit 2014 has given me the platform and the initiative to firmly make that decision. I’m neither a marine biologist nor am I associated with Greenpeace or similar organizations. I’m actually a nurse by profession. But my heart beats for sharks and I feel that in the end, it is my calling to fight for their protection and push for others to do the same. I want to see the day when sharks are no longer regarded as mindless killing machines but as perfect predators who we need to keep our oceans healthy for our sake.

Sharks have survived the five mass extinctions that have plagued Earth since they came around. For sure, if we induce the sixth by our own hand, there’s no way they’ll survive. Sharks call this planet “home” too, and have every right to swim free in the oceans as much as we deem ourselves to walk freely on land. We need to remember that we are all connected in the web of life. What happens to them eventually happens to us. Sharks can’t speak for themselves and human ignorance has been their downfall.

Let’s give sharks a voice and a chance at survival. 

Saving our sharks one bite at a time: A review of the 2014 Shark Summit

By Kaye Lanaria         

As a kid, whenever my cousins and I would go to the beach, we would tease each other about sharks being in the vicinity. We’d tug at each others’ feet or pull each other down, pretending we were sharks.

For years, such has been the image of sharks. This gross misconception is one major reason why people think it is okay to disturb, hurt, kill, and eat them. Sharks seem scary cause they’re big, have sharp teeth, and we know they may have the capacity to hurt people. 

What most people don’t know is that sharks help maintain ecological balance. Several shark species are apex predators, which means they are on top of the food chain and help regulate the population in the lower levels of the chain. Just imagine how the ocean would be if there were no sharks that would eat the smaller, sick, or dead fishes; or how the ocean bed would look like if there were no sharks to “discipline” the grazers who eat seagrass and algae. An imbalance in the marine ecosystem would affect humans, as the seas are our source of protein, tourism, livelihood, and economy.

It was uplifting to hear that a Shark Summit was being organized in Cebu. We have a number of shark conservationists in the country, but they could make a greater impact if they would come together and be able to share what they have done for the common cause and not just in their individual niches. On August 14 and 15, representatives from the academe, media, local government, government agencies, NGOs, private businesses, and shark enthusiasts came together to discuss several concerns on the conservation and utilization of sharks and rays. One of the things I learned is that the Philippines has an Environmental Ombudsman! If there are government units that are operating ineffectively with regards to the implementation of environmental policies, anyone can contact the Environmental Ombudsman’s office or its satellite offices to seek for help.

The 2014 Shark Summit was, I think, a necessity well delivered, as the entire event was divided into different thematic discussions and interactions, which heightened the focus on specific issues, gaps, and statuses in research, policies, enforcement, tourism, and advocacy campaigns. All groups then had to identify what specific plans of action were needed for their resolution.

During the presentation of each thematic group to the plenary, a similar matter was raised: the lack and need for community involvement. While we do have professionals working for the cause, somehow we fail to put into utmost consideration those who are directly involved with the matter, such as the fishermen and the market vendors, to name a few. Aside from just educating them with the technical facts, it is also essential for them to be involved in the planning and policy enforcement for them to fully understand the value of the message we are trying to put forth.

On the second and last day, participants were asked to post their specific commitments and contact information beside the list of recommended actions, so we would know exactly who to approach and work with in the coming months. This will also help the Shark Summit organizers evaluate how many of the participants followed through with their commitments during the 2nd Shark Summit. 

The 2014 Shark Summit is worth commending. For a first conference, it was very productive and inspiring. Maybe for the next summit, the organizers would already consider inviting the younger audience.

As what Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III emphasized in his speech during the opening ceremonies of the Summit, there has to be a balance between exploitation and conservation for sustainability. Such can only be realized if we had the same mindset towards such reality.

Fisheries Law Enforcement Team formed in Daanbantayan

(Daanbantayan, Cebu—July 25, 2014) In line with the Municipality of Daanbantayan’s pursuit to eliminate illegal fishing activities, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region-7 and NGO Save Philippine Seas conducted a rigorous three-day training on Coastal Law Enforcement in the Daanbantayan Municipal Hall, Cebu from July 22-24. It was attended by forty Bantay Dagat aspirants from 15 coastal barangays and 2 island barangays.

The training program consisted of lectures, workshops, and hands-on sessions. Topics included coastal and resource management awareness, local and provincial legislations, mapping and navigation skills, and detection of fish caught with noxious substances and explosives. On the last day, the attendees participated in mock seaborne operations and a market visit. During the market visit, the trainees discovered at least two vendors selling fish caught with explosives. The vendors were immediately brought to the police station for further investigation, sending a strong message to the rest of the community.



“When I started my term as mayor, we became more active in going after illegal fishing operations. But more needs to be done,” said Municipal Mayor Augusto Corro during his welcome message. He was elected in 2013. “We all need to move,” he added in the vernacular.

Daanbatayan is known as a hotspot for illegal fishing activities. Dynamite fishing, poaching, and shark fishery remain rampant in the area.

Upon meeting the requirements set by BFAR and the LGU, the participants will be authorized to enforce all fishery laws, rules and regulations, and all relevant ordinances inside the territorial jurisdiction of Daanbantayan as Bantay Dagat personnel. The team is called Migo sa Iho (friend of the sharks), in reference to the thresher sharks and whitetip sharks that can be seen in Malapascua Island, one of the municipality’s island barangays. The regular presence of these sharks attracts scuba divers from the Philippines and abroad.



The Bantay Dagat Coastal Law Enforcement Workshop is one of the activities under the Shark Shelter Project, a community-based, multi-stakeholder project founded by Save Philippine Seas in Malapascua Island in 2012. The workshop was supported by USAID-ECOFISH and Globe Bridging Communities.

Volunteers for the 2014 Shark Summit needed

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Shark Summit 2014: A National Roundtable Discussion and Workshop on the on the Conservation and Management of Sharks is seeking a social media correspondent and a blogger. It will be held on August 14-15, 2014 in the Cebu Provincial Social Hall.

Background:

Sharks are extremely valuable in the Philippine tourism and economy. However, to date, there are very few policies and legal instruments that protect the species and their habitats. In response to increasing concern over the sustainability of shark fisheries and trade, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) published the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks) in 2009 after a series of national and regional consultations on the status of shark fisheries in the country. The NPOA-Sharks highlights several important issues and concerns that need to be revisited so that actionable targets will be arrived at from a variety of perspectives to further advance shark conservation and management in the country.

Greenpeace, Save Philippine Seas, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and ECOFISH Philippines are organizing Shark Summit 2014: A National Roundtable Discussion and Workshop on the on the Conservation and Management of Sharks on August 14-15, 2014 in the Cebu Provincial Social Hall. The Shark Summit aims to bring together representatives from civil society, tourism and business sectors, divers, government agencies, and the academe to discuss ways forward to protect and manage sharks in the Philippines.

Volunteers needed: 

Social Media Correspondent

Cebu-based

Must be available to attend the Shark Summit in Cebu on August 14-15

Engaged from August 14-15

The Social Media correspondent must tweet live from the Shark Summit on August 14-15 using the @SavePHSeas account.

Interested applicants must send their Twitter username and resume to annaoposa[at]gmail[dot]com.

Blogger

Cebu-based

Must be available to attend the Shark Summit in Cebu on August 14-15

Engaged from August 14-15 only

The Blogger must write three (3) blog entries on SPS’s Tumblr account:

1)     Summary of Day 1 (August 14)

2)     Summary of Day 2 ( August 15)

3)     Wrap-up and Ways forward

Interested bloggers must send their blog link and resume to annaoposa[at]gmail[dot]com.

 

SPS was one of the civil society organizations present in the 108th quarterly assembly of Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries yesterday to defend the proposed Fisheries Administrative Order to protect thresher sharks. 

According to BFAR, it is “not urgent enough to be prioritized.” According to Assistant Director for Administrative Services Benjamin Tabios, thresher sharks are not “caught intentionally.” He added, “How do you tell a thresher shark na huwag mong kainin ang pain? Sige, kausapin niyo nga!” (“How do you tell a thresher shark not to bite the bait? Go ahead, talk to them.”)

SPS and its partner environmental organizations will continue to lobby for the protection of sharks and other species.

Photo by Vince Cinches of Greenpeace

About Us

An independent movement organized by individuals from different fields of expertise, united by the passion to stop the abuse & destruction of our precious marine resources thru legal discourse & social media.

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