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Philippines

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    Establishment of Fisheries Refugia in Philippines:
    Background and Situation Analysis to Support

     

    Baseline analysis and gaps

    The experience of the Philippines with lack of compliance with no-take 'fish sanctuaries' was the entry point to efforts to improve the basis for integrated fish stock and habitat management in the Philippines. Particularly this experience laid stress on the importance of focusing on the concepts of sustainable use and fishery-critical habitat linkages in communicating with government officials and coastal fishing communities in the Philippines about spatial fisheries management tools. It was noted by the National Fisheries Committee that these are more easily understood and likely accepted at the fisheries community level than either the science of no-take areas or the concept of biodiversity and its conservation. Activities of the fisheries component of the UNEP/GEF South China Sea project in the Philippines resulted in consensus among target fishing communities on the suitability of the fisheries refugia approach in addressing barriers to the integration of fisheries and habitat management at selected priority locations.

    Stakeholder consultations involving representatives from local government units, regional government agencies, law enforcers, fisherfolk organisation, non-governmental organisations, and national fisheries committee members have been undertaken and resulted in:  the identification of goals and objectives for the priority refugia sites identified above; and a high level of stakeholder support for the establishment of the refugia approach in the Philippines. The latter is evidenced by the incorporation of the fisheries refugiaconcept as a priority tool for improved fisheries habitat management in the Philippines' Comprehensive National Fisheries Development Plan. Additionally, there is evidence of the uptake of the approach in the management of sardinella fisheries in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea waters of the Philippines. Pilot activities in application of the refugiaapproach in the Visayan Sea has proven successful in facilitating the resolution of a long-running conflict between the fisheries and environment sectors in that areas.

     

    Key gaps that have been identified include needs for:

    • Enhanced national coordination mechanism to accommodate overarching responsibility for the establishment of national fisheries refugia;
    • Strengthened enabling environment for the formal designation and operational management of fisheries refugia;
    • Improved national and site-level science and information base to support evidence-based planning and operational management; and
    • Development of practical experience in the designation and management of fisheries refugiasites

     

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    Establishment of Fisheries Refugia in Philippines:
    Background and Situation Analysis to Support

     

    Known Areas of Critical Significance to the Life-Cycles of Fisheries Resources

    1. Spawning areas:

    Several ichthyoplankton surveys have been conducted in various parts of the Philippines, the findings of which provide some insight into areas of significance for fish spawning. However, as larvae are generally only identifiable to family level, difficulties exist in identifying species-specific spawning grounds. Spawning grounds for tuna include the west coast of Palawan, Mindoro Strait extending further into the Sulu Sea, the offshore areas of Manila Bay-Zambales, and the Ilocos coast.  More recent information indicates that the Celebes Sea, including Moro Gulf, is the major spawning area for tuna, with subsequent migration through the Sulu Sea via Balabac Strait, Northern Palawan, and Mindoro Strait. This migration facilitates mixing of tuna stocks from the South China Sea with those from the Celebes Sea.

    Information and data relating to zooplankton biomass and ichthyoplankton density in various areas along the western Philippines and adjacent internal waters provide some insight into key fish spawning areas in the SCS. Surveys indicate high fish egg and larvae densities in 4 key locations, the first being Malampaya Sound, a deep embayment on the west coast of northern Palawan. Zooplankton biomass is also shown to be correspondingly high in this area. Accordingly, and based solely on the basis of plankton densities, Malampaya Sound is considered a key spawning ground for various fish species of significance. Although as information regarding the species composition of ichthyoplankton collected in Malampaya Sound is scarce, it is difficult to identify the individual species or families which utilise this site for spawning. Survey data has also shown Mindoro Strait to contain high larval fish densities, with species of Thunnidae, Carangidae, Serranidae, and Mullidae comprising over 75 percent of the ichthyoplankton in this area.

    Comparable larval densities have also been recorded in Lingayen Gulf and Northern Palawan. In Lingayen Gulf, eggs and larvae were concentrated along the coast from the southern central to the eastern portions of the Gulf, whereas low ichthyoplankton densities were recorded at the mid-Gulf stations. More recent sampling shows an almost hundredfold difference in zooplankton biomass between the high concentrations in the Western Gulf region extending from Bolinao to the Hundred Islands Reef system, and the rest of the Gulf. Water circulation in Lingayen Gulf is forced by the northward shelf current passing Cape Bolinao, resulting in a wake feature that forms an eddy across the mouth of the Gulf. Dispersal modeling has shown that most larvae sourced near the Bolinao Reef Flat are entrained in the headland eddy, favouring settlement and recruitment along the western Gulf region. Therefore, it is more likely that the latter region is a major spawning ground for reef and other fish within Lingayen Gulf.

    High fish egg concentrations have also been recorded about 100 nm off the coasts of Ilocos southward to Zambales, with high larval densities occurring further south and in internal waters of Mindoro and Northern Palawan. The dominant fish groups associated with those surveys include the gobiids, carangids, and apogonids, which were found closer inshore, whereas the scombrids and thunnids were found further offshore. In northern Palawan, spawning grounds are believed to occur further inshore, particularly within the numerous embayments and indentations along the coast. The major pelagic groups in the area include the carangids, clupeids, scombrids, and engraulids, whereas the most common epibenthic groups are the gobiids, mugilids, and the reef-associated haemulids, monacanthids, and lutjanids. Collectively, these groups comprised about 65% of the larval assemblage in the area.

    While work to link observed fish egg and larvae information with oceanographic processes and transport is ongoing, the best available information summarised above indicates that key spawning areas are: (a) Malampaya Sound; (b) the western portion of Lingayen Gulf; (c) Mindoro Strait; and (d) Northern Palawan including the Calamianes Islands. It is also believed that Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan Island Group are major sources of propagules for the country’s archipelagic waters and fishing grounds, although comparable information (e.g. ichthyoplankton) for use in undertaking a more definitive examination are lacking.

     

    2. Nursery areas and feeding grounds:

    There exists a paucity of available information regarding the productivity of western Philippines waters in the SCS and the utilisation of specific locations for nursery areas and feeding grounds by important fisheries resources. The area south of Subic Bay extending to waters west of northern Palawan has higher phytoplankton biomass, as indexed by chlorophyll α concentrations, than waters further north. Relatively high concentrations of chlorophyll α are also observed for the shelf, shoal, and oceanic areas west of northern Palawan. High zooplankton biomass is also closely associated with areas of high chlorophyll α concentrations in these areas. Purse seine fishing experiments conducted in the vicinity in 1998 showed that catch rates for small pelagic fish, primarily Decapterus spp., were at least tenfold higher just off the Bataan Peninsula than in other coastal areas further north or south, thus showing a good spatial correspondence with the concentrations of phytoplankton and zooplankton, as well as the utilization of this location by juvenile fish.

    From the information presented above, it can also be inferred that, within the SCS sub-region, high fish abundance is in close spatial correspondence with both high zoo- and phytoplankton biomass. Hence, it follows that higher concentrations of nutrients are required to sustain the primary and secondary production, which in turn supports the fisheries production capacities, in coastal embayments. Accordingly, if early developmental stages (e.g. larvae) of coastal stocks were to benefit from areas that provide natural protection from open water predation, and from those where productivity adequately supports high consumption and rapid growth rates, Lingayen Gulf and Manila Bay would likely serve as important nursery grounds. The prevalence of juveniles in trawl catches in Lingayen Gulf and Manila Bay is a clear indication that both areas serve as nursing and feeding grounds for many coastal stocks, including those of transboundary significance. Definitely, for some species, these areas would be important spawning grounds as well, although for migratory species such as tuna and other large pelagics, their dependence on such areas for spawning is uncertain.

      

    3. Enhancing the information base: 

    The information presented above provides insight into broad areas considered important as spawning, nursery and feeding grounds for fish stocks. To assist in building the information base on areas significant to the life-cycles of fisheries resources, the seventh meeting of the UNEP/GEF South China Sea project's Regional Working Group on Fisheries (RWG-F) considered during its seventh meeting a preliminary inventory of known spawning areas in the Gulf of Thailand for significant pelagic, demersal, and invertebrate species. To assist in developing a more comprehensive basis for the development of a list of critical spawning and nursery areas for important fish species, members of the RWG-F agreed to compile information during the inter-sessional period on: the UNEP/GEF South China Sea Project’s Habitat Demonstration Sites that are critical inshore nursery refugia for important demersal species, locations in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand that are utilised by important pelagic species for spawning, and existing fisheries management areas that may qualify as candidate sites of fisheries refugia. The National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI) compiled this information for review by the Philippine’s National Fisheries Committee prior to its sharing at the regional level.

    The subsequent and eighth meeting of the RWG-F considered document UNEP/GEF/SCS/RWG-F.8/5 "Information Collated by the Fisheries and Habitat Components of the South China Sea Project on Sites Important to the Life-Cycles of Significant Fish Species". This document contained a review of all information collated by the fisheries and habitat components of the South China Sea Project on fish-habitat linkages. The sources of this information included: national reports on fisheries; national reports on coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves, and wetlands; SCS habitat site characterisations; habitat demonstration site project documents; the South China Sea online meta-database; and information contributed directly by fisheries and habitat focal points. That meeting agreed that this information should be used to identify and characterise fish spawning and nursery areas in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. Members formed country-based sessional working groups to prepare country summaries of known critical spawning and nursery areas in their respective countries. These sessional working groups collated information regarding: approximate geographical location of the site; species known to utilise the site; known usage of the site (i.e. as spawning and/or nursery area; time of year that the site is utilised as a spawning or nursery area; and the information source. During the inter-sessional period, NFRDI undertook national consultations with the academe and fishing communities to refine this information.

    The ninth meeting of the RWG-F reviewed discussion document UNEP/GEF/SCS/RWG-F.9/8, "Review of Information regarding known Spawning and Nursery Areas and the Establishment of Pilot Fisheries Refugia Sites in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand", and update information for each known spawning and nursery area and add new sites to the list as appropriate. The revised list of known spawning and nursery areas for economically important fish species in Philippine’s waters of the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand, was considered by the national consultation workshop for the preparatory phase of the SOPAC/UNEP/GEF project “Establishment and Operation of a Regional System of Fisheries Refugia in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand”, and is presented below as Table 1.

     

    Table 1: Known Critical Spawning and Nursery Areas for Significant Fish Species in the Philippines.

    Site Name

    Geographic Location

    Species Known to Utilise the Site

    Known Usage of the Site

    Information Sources

    Nursery

    Spawning

     Lingayen Gulf

     16o12’42’’ – 120o08’17’’

    Threadfin bream (Nemipterusspp.)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Mangrove red snapper (Lutjanus argentimaculatus)

     

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Brownstripe red snapper (Lutjanus vitta)

     

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Leopard coralgrouper (Plectropomus leopardus)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    White-spotted spinefoot   (Siganus canaliculatus) (Rabbitfish)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Mottled spinefoot (Siganus fuscescens)  (Rabbitfish)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Sixbar grouper  (Epinephelus sexfasciatus)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Greasy grouper (Epinephelus tauvina)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Frigate tuna  (Auxis thazard)

     

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Bullet tuna (Auxis rocheii)

     

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commersoni)

     

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Short mackerel (Rastrelliger brachysoma)

     

    Fisheries & habitat reports

     Masinloc

     15o48’-15o59’N

    119o89’-119o97E

    Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Round scads (Decapterus spp.)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Frigate tuna (Auxis thazard)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Bullet tuna (Auxis rocheii)

    Fisheries & habitat reports

    Sardines (Sardinellaspp.)

     

    Fisheries & habitat reports

     Ilocos Coast

     16°20' N - 120°15' E

    Caranx

    NFRDI

    Nemipterids

    NFRDI

    Siganids

    NFRDI

    Gobies

    NFRDI

    Tunas

    NFRDI

    Groupers

    NFRDI

    Sardines

    NFRDI

    Anchovies

    NFRDI

    Batangas Coast

     13O39’’N – 120o44’E

    Frigate tuna (Auxis thazard)

    Fisheries report

    Bullet tuna (Auxis rocheii)

    Fisheries report

    Sardines (Sardinellaspp.)

     

    Fisheries report

    Rastrelliger kanagurta (Indian mackerel)

     

    Fisheries report

    Rastrelliger brachysoma (Short mackerel)

     

    Fisheries report

     Calamianes

     12o00’49’’N – 120o05’10’’

    Torpedo scad (Megalaspis cordyla)

     

    FISH Project report

    Spatelloides gracilis

    FISH Project report

    Yellowtail scad (Atule mate)

     

    FISH Project report

    Bigeye scad (Selar crumenophthalmus)

     

    FISH Project report

    Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta)

     

    FISH Project report

    Sapanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commersoni)

     

    FISH Project report

    Oxeye scad (Selar boops)

     

    FISH Project report

    Leopard coralgrouper (Plectropomus leopardus)

    FISH Project report

     

    White-spotted spinefoot (Siganus canaliculatus) (Rabbitfish)

    FISH Project report

    Frigate tuna (Auxis thazard)

     

    Fisheries report

    Bullet tuna (Auxis rocheii)

     

    Fisheries report

    Blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus)

    FISH Project report

    Malampaya Sound

     11o01’N – 119o17’E

    Indian anchovy (Stolephorus indicus)

     

    Habitat report

    Commerson's anchovy (Stolephorus commersonnii)

     

    Habitat report

    Common ponyfish  (Leiognathus equulus)

    ADB RETA

    Blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus)

    Habitat report

    Banana Prawn (Penaeus merguiensis)

    Habitat report

     

     

  • MAPPING OF FISHERIES REFUGIA

     

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    Establishment of Fisheries Refugia in Philippines:
    Background and Situation Analysis to Support

     

    Priority Fisheries Refugia Areas

    The fisheries refugia concept was defined by the RWG-F as "Spatially and geographically defined, marine or coastal areas in which specific management measures are applied to sustain important species [fisheries resources] during critical stages of their life cycle, for their sustainable use" (UNEP, 2005) and was developed as a novel approach to the identification and designation of priority areas in which to integrate fisheries and habitat management. The fisheries refugia concept focuses on the nature of the particular habitat and its critical significance to the life-history of the fished species. Management of refugia therefore focuses on the habitat rather than simply restricting access, either temporally or spatially, to fishing grounds. The process of identifying priority fisheries refugia in the Philippines was initiated via a RWG-F review of the above list of sites in relation to: information on the distribution and abundance of fish eggs and larvae in the South China Sea; and the outcomes of country consultations on the identification of fisheries refugia.

    In the Philippines, country consultations were conducted in San Fernando City, La Union, Masinloc, Zambales, and Busuanga, Palawan and involved participation by representatives from local government units, academe, regional government agencies, law enforcers, fisherfolk organisations, non-governmental organisations, people’s organisations, and national fishery committee members. The purpose of these consultations was to introduce participants to the concept of fisheries refugiaand the procedures for the identification and selection of refugia sites, and involved: establishing a consensual understanding of the concept of fisheries refugia among participants; reaching agreement with local government legislative bodies on the process for issuing municipal or local ordinances for the establishment and management of fisheries refugia; identifying technical assistance required at the local level for refugia management; and prioritising sites for inclusion in a national and regional system of fisheries refugia. The consultations also considered the outcomes of studies on the density distribution of fish eggs and larvae along South China Sea coast of the Philippines, and preliminary work to model the dispersal of fish eggs and larvae by ocean currents in the area. The RWG-F subsequently agreed on 14 priority sites for inclusion in an initial regional system of fisheries refugia and an additional 9 sites for which additional information was required prior to their inclusion in the system. Finally, the priority fisheries refugia sites selected for the Philippines during the inception meeting held in November 2016 are depicted in Figure 1.

    Figure 1: Locations of priority fisheries refugia sites on the South China Sea coast of the Philippines

     

     

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    Establishment of Fisheries Refugia in Philippines:
    Background and Situation Analysis to Support

     

     Status and Trends in Fisheries and their Habitats   

    The Philippines is an archipelago with an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2,200,000 km2, of which 266,000 km2 is coastal (12%) and 1,934,000 km2 is oceanic (88%). Its shelf area covers 184,600 km2, with the coral reefs spanning 30,000 km2. Four major water bodies surround the archipelago: the Pacific Ocean in the east; the Celebes Sea in the south; the South China Sea (SCS) in the west; and the Philippine Sea in the north. Its bathymetric features are complex, consisting of various trenches, submarine ridges, deep-sea basins, island arcs, and plateaus. The marine environment of the Philippines is typically tropical, with relatively warm and less saline waters. Sea surface temperature varies between 24 and 30ºC, depending on the season but with mean values varying slightly between 27 and 28ºC. Mean annual range in the temperature of waters west of Luzon is around 5ºC. Salinity variations are relatively narrow; in the west-northwest part of the Philippines, sea surface salinity ranges from 33.7 to 34.6 psu.

    The South China Sea (SCS) portion of the Philippines is geographically delimited by western Luzon, Palawan, and Mindoro Occidental, covering administrative regions I and III, and parts of Region IV and the National Capital Region (NCR). In dealing with aquatic resources in the area, especially fisheries, data constitute those obtained from the extensive coast and several embayments along western Luzon, including the Batanes Islands further north, as well as from western Palawan waters and the northern Mindoro coast. The SCS portion of the Philippines, excluding Batanes Islands, is around 50,000 km2, harbouring 16 cities and a total population of 26.3 million people. Population density in the same year stands at 472 persons/km2, with a finite growth rate of 2.1%. The area has a watershed spanning 27,500 km2, with five major rivers emptying into the SCS.

    The fisheries sector of the Philippines is composed of culture and capture sub-sectors. Fishing is classified into municipal or commercial type, depending on the gross tonnage (GT) of the boats used. Municipal fishing includes activities not requiring the use of boats and those using boats not more than 3 GT. Commercial fishing involves the use of boats more than 3 GT. The Philippine Fisheries Code, enacted in 1998, prohibits commercial fishing within municipal waters whose designated offshore boundary is 15 km from the shoreline. This practically grants the right of access to nearshore fishing grounds exclusively to municipal fishers, whose population far exceeds that of commercial fishers. However, with this right comes greater accountability and regulatory control. Municipal fisherfolk secure licences to fish from local government units (LGUs), whereas commercial fishers obtain licences from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The latter also issues licences to fish in international waters.

    The SCS sub-region is among the most important fishing areas in the country as surveys indicate that the volume of fish catch from this area of the archipelago are thought to contribute up to 20 percent of total annual fisheries production in the Philippines. Both municipal and commercial fishing occur constantly during the first half of each year, although inclement weather associated with the southwest monsoon hinders commercial fishing operations during the second half of the year. Small-scale fishing at the municipal level persists throughout the year. Although records of landings from the SCS portion of the Philippines are scarce, the commercial sub-sector makes the greatest contribution to total marine landings from the SCS, mostly from activities in the West Palawan area. This reflects the relative efficiency and intensity of use of commercial fishing gears such as purse seines and ringnets. Municipal landings, however, are thought to surpass commercial landings in the West Luzon area (excluding Manila Bay), due to high levels of small-scale fishing pressure in that location.

    The Philippine Statistics Authority generates the statistics for aquaculture, commercial, and municipal fisheries. Species-specific information for marine fish is limited to the top 30 species which are aggregated into eight groups under the ISSCAAP system and account for almost 68% of nationwide fish production. These groups are: Group 33 – slipmouth, threadfin bream, fusilier, goatfish, grouper, snapper, siganid, parrotfish, and porgies (~9% of landings); Group 34 – roundscad, big-eyed scad, crevalle, flying fish, cavalla, and mullet (~19 percent of landings); Group 35 – Indian sardine, fimbriated sardine, anchovy, round herring (~17 percent of landings); Group 36 - skipjack, frigate tuna, yellowfin tuna, eastern little tuna, spanish mackerel; Group 37 – Indian mackerel, Indo-Pacific mackerel, hairtail (~4 percent of landings); Group 42 – blue crab (~2 percent of landings); Group 45 – acetes shrimp (~0.7 percent of landings); and Group 57 – squid (~2.2 percent of landings).

    Each of the above groups of species is targeted in Philippine waters of the SCS, with landings of these groups from SCS waters being higher than those from other parts of the Philippines. This is explained by the fact that the West Palawan area of the SCS is a major contributor to commercial fisheries production. At the national level and in terms of total production, purse seine is the most important commercial fishing gear, contributing 47 to 58% of the total marine fish landings, followed by ringnet (14 to 21%). In the case of municipal landings, gillnets account for 31 to 33% of the total, followed by line gears (hook and line, handline) with 18 to 24%. Recent surveys indicate that the relative contributions of purse seines and ringnets for the commercial sub-sector, and gillnets and hook and line for the municipal sub-sector from the SCS area, are increasing due to these gear types being better suited to the rough sea conditions and the hard ground relief on the SCS side of the archipelago.

    The Philippines’ fisheries sector employs around a million people broken down into following: municipal 68%; aquaculture 26%; and commercial 6%. This constitutes 3 to 4% of the national labour force. Assuming that a typical family is comprised of 5 to 6 persons, then around 5 to 6 million people are directly dependent on fisheries. In addition, the fisheries sector indirectly provides employment to those engaged in fish distribution, marketing, processing, operation of ice plants and cold storage, and related industries such as net-making, boat-building, and boat-engine sales and repairs. Among the small-scale municipal sector is a high level dependence on fish and fishing to meet basic nutrition and livelihood needs. Given the high population of the Philippines, of around 99 million people, and an annual population growth rate of more than 2 percent, there is significant pressure to increase domestic fish production to meet demand.

    Meeting the above mentioned need for increased production is challenged by the fact that nearly all nearshore fish stocks, particularly those within embayments, are overfished. These areas (e.g. coral reefs, shallow soft-bottom areas) are characterised by diminishing catch rates, increased units of most gears, decreasing sizes of fish, and a reduced number of fish species in the fishery. In highly exploited and overfished areas such as Manila Bay and Lingayen Gulf, the decline in demersal resources has led to an abundance of pelagic species. This has triggered shifts in target species and significant investment in alternative fishing gear and exploration of new fishing areas.

    Coupled with this high level of fishing pressure and dependence on fisheries are threats to critical fisheries habitats. Key threats include: reclamation of nearshore areas for coastal infrastructure: sedimentation of coastal waters as a result of coastal development; wastewater effluent from highly populated coastal areas, industry, and shrimp and fish farming; and destructive fishing. Fisheries habitats in areas of Lingayen Gulf and Manila Bay are particularly threatened by high population densities and industrial development, whereas localised reclamation, coastal development and destructive fishing are more prevalent threats in areas of Palawan.

    A detailed baseline assessment of fish stocks and habitats of regional, global, and transboundary significance in South China Sea waters of the Philippines was produced as part of fisheries component activities of the the UNEP/GEF South China Sea project[1]. This assessment presents available information and data relating the status and threats of important fish stocks, habitats and areas of importance in the maintenance of exploited fish stocks, and existing management regimes, which was used in the planning of national-level actions for the SEAFDEC/UNEP/GEF project entitled “Establishing and Operating a Regional System of FisheriesRefugia in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand” (Fisheries Refugia Project). It is anticipated that this assessment will be updated with new and additional information generated during the implementation of the Fisheries Refugia Project. It will also act as an important reference for determining the effectiveness of management interventions supported by the project.

     

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    Establishment of Fisheries Refugia in Philippines:
    Background and Situation Analysis to Support

     

    Threats, root causes and barrier analysis

    1. Threats

    National technical and community consultative processes in the Philippines worked to identify key threats to fish stock and critical habitat linkages. For example at Masinloc, efforts to develop co-management of coral reef areas to enhance livelihoods were noted as being constrained by the prevalence of unsustainable fishing practices, including use of cyanide in the live reef fish industry, blast fishing, and use of non-selective fishing gear and practices. Similarly at Bolinao, efforts to establish and strengthen functional linkages between and among community groups, academic institutions, with local and national government support, for the development of sustainable management systems for critical seagrass habitat identified pollution from aquaculture, push net fishing, trampling of habitat during gleaning of shellfish, and increase in fish cage culture as key threats.

    a. Threats to critical habitats: 

    Of the dominant coastal habitats, seagrass and coral reef habitats are among the most threatened in the Philippines. Key anthropogenic threats to seagrass habitats on the South China Sea coast of the Philippines have been ranked from most to least significant as follows: nutrient contamination of coastal waters, destructive fishing such as push nets and trawls, sedimentation from coastal development, wastewater effluent, coastal construction, and overfishing. Anthropogenic threats to coral reefs have been ranked in order of significance as: overfishing, destructive fishing practices (including blast fishing), sedimentation, nutrient pollution leading to eutrophication, and coastal development and unsustainable tourism practices. Cutting of timber for charcoal production and timber is considered the key contemporary anthropogenic threat to mangrove forests, while conversion of mangrove forests for industrial uses is a minor but persistent threat despite legislation banning all harvesting of mangroves in the Philippines. Natural threats have been identified as sea-level rise and episodic threats, including tsunamis and typhoons.

    Key threats from fisheries have been categorized by the National Fisheries Committee in the Philippines as:

    • The twin problems of over-capacity and over-exploitation;
    • Use of destructive and/or unsustainable fishing gear and practices;
    • Pollution from coastal residents and small fishing vessels;
    • Habitat destruction and pollution due to fish and shrimp farming; and
    • Illegal fishing
    b. The twin problems of over-capacity and over-exploitation: 

    Over-capacity in commercial and small-scale fisheries, combined with the problem of over-exploitation, are enduring issues facing regional fisheries. The impacts of over-capitalisation and over-exploitation are magnified by the use of subsidies and the dependence of coastal communities on fish resources for income, as well as food and nutritional security. Most areas of the South China Sea coast of the Philippines are characterized by a rapid increase in the number of fishing vessels and total engine capacity (hp), and although there has been a general corresponding increase in landings, catch per unit of effort (CPUE) has declined significantly. Recent interviews with fisherfolk suggest significant reductions in yields. Rapid growth in the number of high-powered boats continues to place heavy pressure on marine resources, especially in coastal, and the subsequent diminishing returns on investment in fishing is believed to be driving the increased occurrence of destructive fishing events. For example, in the Masinloc area of the Philippines, where fishing is a primary source of income for more than 30 percent of households, over-capitalisation in commercial fisheries is contributing to the illegal encroachment of larger-scale fishing operations into municipal waters, which are areas largely managed for use by small-scale fisherfolk. This, coupled with a lack of alternative livelihoods, is thought to be the key reason why both small-scale and commercial fishers are resorting to illegal and destructive fishing practices, including blast-fishing and the use of fish poisons (cyanide) in the area. Effective management of over-capitalisation and over-exploitation of fisheries resources has been identified as an important element of achieving the desired outcomes for the management of fisheries refugia and will require effective linkage with broader efforts to curb high and increasing levels of fishing pressure in the Philippines.

    c. The use of destructive and/or unsustainable fishing gear and practices: 

    This issue is prevalent across a range of habitat types and regions of the Philippine’s South China Sea coast. As noted above, the Bolinao and Masinloc have identified as hotspots for the use of destructive and/or unsustainable fishing gear and practice, representing a key threat to critical fisheries habitats. Examples include:

    • Push netting and inshore trawl fishing cause habitat impacts and selectivity issues. Catches in these gear types from inshore waters are largely composed of juveniles, and at high fishing effort levels are thought to contribute to growth over-fishing in the area. Such a situation hinders fisheries management efforts which largely focus on development of sustainable livelihoods, and is a key threat in Bolinao where push nets are used extensively over seagrass beds to take juveniles of the economically important rabbit fish (Siganus fuscescens). S. fuscescens utilise seagrass beds as areas of refuge during critical phases of its lifecycle.
    • Digging and gleaning of seagrass beds and mangrove forests is an area of concern at each of the priority refugia sites in the Philippines. Growing demand for seafood in local markets has resulted in a marked increase over recent years in the number of people digging for sipunculid worms, gastropods, and crustaceans in the seagrass beds, leading to damage of seagrass plants, de-stabilisation of sediments (and subsequent erosion), and the over-exploitation of benthic organisms. Intensive digging and grazing in some mangrove areas is considered to be contributing to the occurrence of dwarf, low-density mangrove stands at several sites due to disturbance of mangrove roots and seedlings.
    • Blast fishing, poisons, and unselective fishing gears/practices is a well-known and documented threat to fisheries and habitats in nearly all areas of the Philippines. A recent 33 percent decrease in fish landings from the Masinloc area is thought be the direct result of over fishing caused by these highly effective fishing practices that often result in mortalities of a wide range of size-classes of target and non-target species, and which may contribute to both growth and recruitment over fishing. The effects of blasting on the physical structure of coral communities is of particular concern, and the occurrence of blast fishing “craters” on heavily blasted reefs is likely to have a major impact on coral reef associated fish assemblages. Non-selective fishing gears, such as trammel nets, are utilised in most fished coral reef areas along the Philippines coast. The growing need to minimise the impacts of such practices critical habitats necessitates the development of best practices in the management of these problems.

    d. Pollution from coastal residents  and small fishing vessels:

    While this issue is well known at the community level, little action has been initiated to address this in the Philippines. Seagrass and nearshore coral reef habitats are particularly threatened by pollution from small fishing vessels and fish processing facilities, particularly in the intensively used shallow embayments of Palawan. While volumes and contaminant loadings of wastewater discharges from fish processing facilities are typically unknown, it is believed to be contributing to increased biological oxygen demand and nutrient concentrations in the coastal water areas of seagrass beds at the sites. This issue is compounded by the discharge of solid wastes generated by fishing communities into areas of coral reef and seagrass. The discharge of oils, both hydrocarbons and fish oils, from small fishing vessels is also common and is potentially a problem across all priority fisheries refugia sites in the Philippines due to the widespread nature of the small-scale fishing sector, although it is recognized that the local significance of this problem will depend on oceanographic processes at the site-level.

    e. Habitat destruction and pollution due to fish and shrimp farming: 

    Aquaculture has been identified as a key threat to seagrass and other soft-bottom fisheries habitats in the Philippines. Seagrass communities are used for oyster grow out in many coastal areas, resulting in habitat degradation and the accumulation of deteriorating cage materials and shells in abandoned feeding areas. Similarly, of the 30 barangays of Bolinao, 20 are located in coastal areas and milkfish aquaculture has now become the major source of income for the area. Unfortunately, due to increasing demand for food in the area, the total number of fish pens and cages in Bolinao has more than doubled the allowable limit of 554 units, which was determined to be the maximum carrying capacity for the area. Milkfish production is intensive and the use of excessively high stocking densities by the majority of farmers has led to eutrophication of coastal water bodies. This has led to significant fish kills and the unused feed and fish wastes associated with the excessive use of artificial feeds has led to bottom water anoxia, the smothering of seagrass plants and dieback in some areas.

    f. Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing: 

    Particularly the use of illegal and destructive fishing gear is common in many areas of the selected sites for the establishment and operation of fisheries refugia in the Philippines. The illegal encroachment of foreign fishing vessels into national waters, and the conduct of large commercial fishing operations in inshore areas set aside for small-scale fishers is common throughout the region. However, the illegal fishing problem is complicated by poor definitions of “illegal” fishing gear and operations in fisheries law, low-level community awareness of the effects of unsustainable fisheries, and minimal resources for monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS). While this issue is being addressed by broader regional programmes operated by FAO and SEAFDEC, local application of regional guidance on IUU management in the establishment and operation of refugia sites has been identified as a priority in the Philippines.

     

    2. Root causes

    The initial Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis conducted for the South China Sea marine basin suggested that the root cause of coastal environmental degradation was the present density and growth of coastal populations. A total of 270 million people, or 5 percent of the world’s population, live in the coastal sub-regions of the five countries. The population is concentrated in 93 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants with indicative trend of doubling of populations in 32 years. Coastal tourism, increasing fisheries development, and oil exploration and exploitation, are among the major economic ‘pull factors’ causing internal migration from poorly developed inland areas to the coast in the Philippines.

     

    As a result of the abovementioned scenario, fisheries are critically important from the perspectives of food security and export earnings in the Philippines. These fisheries are characterised by high levels of fishing effort from the small-scale sector. Accordingly, all inshore waters of the South China Sea basin are subject to intense fishing pressure. Growing global demand for fisheries products, coupled with strong coastal community dependence on fisheries, is driving continued increases in fishing capacity and effort. The obvious impediment to the reduction of inshore fishing effort is that small-scale operators are often entirely dependent on fish for income, food and well-being, and this has resulted in the situation of stocks of nearly almost all important species being fully-fished or overexploitated. Consequently, the investment of time and household expenditure on fuel for fishing has increased in coastal communities attempting to secure adequate dietary nutrition and income from fishing.

     

    The situation of high small-scale fishing pressure and declining fisheries resources has contributed to the adoption of unsustainable fishing methods to maintain catch and increase incomes in the short-term. As noted in section 1.3.1 above, these include the use of destructive fishing gear and practices, such as the operation of demersal trawls and push nets in seagrass areas, and the detonation of explosives and release of fish poisons in coral reef areas. Small-scale inshore fishing pressure has therefore been identified as a significant cause of the degradation and loss of coastal habitats in Philippine waters of the South China Sea. Conversely, while action aimed at reducing the rate of loss of coastal habitats has been implemented in South China Sea waters of the Philippines, the rate of loss of such habitats remains high, raising serious concerns for the long-term sustainability of small-scale fisheries in the region.

     

    With fish production being intrinsically linked to the quality and area of habitats and the heightened dependence of coastal communities on fish, a need exists in the Philippines to improve the integration of fish habitat considerations and fisheries management in the region. The dilemma for the fisheries and environment sectors is that conservation of habitat does not necessarily result in increased fish stocks while lowering fishing effort does not necessarily result in the improvement of habitat. Therefore, given the complexity of the key threats to fish stocks, fish habitats and associated biodiversity in Southeast Asia, it is imperative that mechanisms for effective cross-sectoral consultation and coordination be established, particularly in terms of the identification and designation of priority ‘places’ for management.

     

    In terms of environmental governance and management, the environment and fisheries are treated as separate sectors for planning and management purposes leading to:

     

    • Overlapping or conflicting mandates between different ministries, as in the case of fisheries and environment for example, where internal mechanisms for managing the impacts of fishing practices on habitats and the physical environment do not exist;
    • Problems related to an effective control of environmental degradation resulting from land-based pollution where the interface between the industrial and environmental sectors is not well developed; and
    • Lack of adequate consideration of the consequence of environmental degradation and habitat loss due to ineffective means of valuing environmental goods and services, and where they exist, a failure to use such values in social cost-benefit analysis.

     

    3. Barriers

    The Philippines’ National Committee on Fisheries has identified a need for national action to strengthen the integration of fisheries and habitat management along the South China Sea coast of the Philippines, although noted that such an initiative would be constrained by the following factors: (1) limited experience in national fisheries and environment departments and ministries with respect to the implementation of integrated fisheries and habitat management approaches; (2) limited information regarding fish life-cycles and critical habitat linkages and the role that coastal habitats play in sustaining fisheries; and (3) the low level of community acceptance of ‘protected’ area approaches to marine management in the Philippines.

    To address these barriers, it has been identified that the project will:

    • build the capacity of fisheries and environment departments and ministries in the Philippines to engage in meaningful dialogue regarding how broader multiple use planning can best contribute to improving the state of fisheries habitat management;
    • improve understanding among stakeholders, including fisherfolk, scientists, policy makers and fisheries managers, of habitat and fishery linkages as a basis for integrated fisheries and habitat management; and
    • enhance and sustain the participation of local fishing communities and the private sector in management interventions for improved fisheries habitat management and biodiversity conservation through a focus on sustainable use rather than the prohibition of fishing.

    Additionally, project activities in the Philippines will address the barriers to integration by drawing on fisheries management concepts that are easily understood by fishing communities and emphasise sustainable use rather than simply the prohibition of fishing. The latter is considered is considered detrimental to efforts to harness community support for area based approaches to fisheries management in the Philippines.

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