By Ben Serrano
Dwindling number of fish sanctuaries not only in Lanuza Bay in Surigao del Sur but in almost all parts of the Caraga, per manifestation of fisher folk associations, would mean low fish catch and naturally will result to skyrocketing prices of fish and marine products .
Sulpecio Navarro, founding president of Islanhong Andam Magdumala Sa Kinaiyahan (Islanders Ready to Manage, Protect the Environment) ISLAMDUNK, said the dwindling number of fish sanctuaries in Lanuza Bay would end up in fish cash decline and skyrocketing prices of fish products.
According to Navarro, the General Island Fish Sanctuary in Cantilan town is only one of the few remaining fish sanctuaries in the entire Caraga which is manned by civilian volunteers guarding, watching 24/7 against deadly and illegal dynamite fishing, liba-liba and other illegal fishing activities within their sanctuary and its environs.
Pastora Ronalyn Rivera, president of another fish sanctuary people’s organization Kadagatan Ampingan Pagmata Katawhan KAMPAKA told Caraga New Courier said that “dwindling number of fish sanctuaries in the Caraga already resulted to low fish catch ended up in skyrocketing prices of fish.”
Rivera admitted that not only dwindling number of fish sanctuaries, Caraga is also experiencing lack of Bantay Dagat and Bantay Gubat personnel due to lack of government, community and private organization’s support.
“You go outside Lanuza Bay by which our area sanctuary belonged. There are few remaining fish sanctuaries now. You can even count it by your fingers existing fish sanctuaries due dwindling numbers of civilian volunteers to join people-led fish sanctuary,” Rivera lamented.
Based in Cortes, Surigao del Sur, KAMPAKA is also engaged into marine and forest protected area people’s organization tapping the participation of Indigenous People’s organization KATRIMMA in protecting upland areas which are mostly part of the tribal ancestral domain.
“When people can’t protect forest denudation its effect are greatly felt in the downstream, the coastal areas which result to sedimentation and siltation due landslide and flooding. There are no more trees up there and devastation will also affect the rivers and seas,” Rivera said.
Marine Science expert Dr. Vincent Hilomen said fish sanctuary is an area in sea or fresh water set aside for conservation, fish production by which habitat is fully protected and fishing is not permitted to pave for small fish pries to grow into adult, harvestable fish.
Marine sanctuaries are the best way to protect marine life and threatened marine species, Hilomen added.
Hilomen is executive director of Project SMART SEAS Philippines by which the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)is cooperating and networking.
Being an archipelago and with more than half of Philippines’ cities and municipalities found in coastal areas and communities within these cities and towns dependent on the bounty of healthy seas for sustenance and income, the country is center of astonishing global marine biodiversity, Hilomen said.
And Caraga having the longest coastal shoreline in the country, more than half of Caraga’s communities dependent on marine and coastal resources for either food sustenance and livelihood.