By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Marine conservation groups Oceana Philippines and Rare Philippines have cited the concerted efforts of government agencies, civil society, and local champions for nearly two decades as essential in the protection of Tañon Strait.
The two groups have been working hand-in-hand with the government and local fisheries advocates to end illegal commercial fishing in the Strait, and ensure effective conservation and sustainable fisheries management for this part of the Coral Triangle.
At present, vessel monitoring measures are being pilot-tested, and local enforcers are being empowered to ensure the protection of the strait.
Tañon Strait is a 161-kilometer strip that separates the islands of Cebu and Negros. This is also the 19th year since it was declared a protected area.
It is remarkably rich in biodiversity as it hosts 62 percent of the country’s coral species, as well as 14 species of whales and dolphins.
Declared as the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) by then-President Fidel V. Ramos on May 27, 1998, the area provides seafood and jobs for 42 towns, cities and municipalities.
However, the Strait was threatened by commercial fishers who illegally enter and fish, ignoring a ban on commercial fishing for both municipal waters and protected areas.
The various law enforcement agencies have since conducted regular joint sea-borne operations to stop the plunder of our marine resources in the area.
Based on figures released by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Central Visayas showed increased fish landings since 2014.
The Bantay Dagat system, which began in the 1970s aimed to augment government capacity to protect the seas.
“Members are drawn from local fisherfolk who undergo three days of standardized training. Upon graduation, they are issued ID cards sanctioned by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the local municipality, giving them a three-year window of authority to enforce the Fisheries Code when operating in their respective areas,” explained Mary Ann Salomon, former head of BFAR’s Fisheries Regulatory and Law Enforcement Division.
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