Overfishing, Industrial Wastes Continue to Degrade Philippine Coral ReefsNewsroom
Around 40% of the Philippines’ corals have been assessed as “poor,” according to a report from the Coral Triangle Initiative. This figure was higher than the previous 27 percent.
The health of coral areas is diminishing in the Philippines due to interdependent factors, said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) at the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The Philippines’ marine areas were blighted by challenges common to many Southeast Asian countries—overfishing, bad fishing practices, oil spills, hazardous waste from industry and agriculture, and the growth of coastal populations, said Lim.
Due to environmental degradation, the Philippines has been identified as “one of 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world” by Conservation International.
So how will the poor condition of the coral reefs affect the Philippines?
Professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University, who also sits as Federation Fellow of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said that poor coral reefs will impact the country in terms of food security and sustainability.
Corals serve as nurseries of small fishes so they can grow and mature for breeding and supplying brood stocks, said Hughes during his visit to the Philippines. Reefs rebuild food webs and ensure sustainable fish supplies.
The lack of healthy reefs will make breeding of fish populations more difficult and their dispersal narrower, thus accounting for lesser supply to meet the demands not only in the Philippines but in other countries that are part of the Coral Triangle.
Increasing strain on marine management is not helping conservation efforts either. To date, over 50 million Filipinos depend on the coastal ecosystem for food and livelihood. The fisheries sector represented 3.84% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.
At least one million Filipinos are employed in the fisheries industry. They, however, are tagged to be the poorest sector in the country, with a poverty incidence of 41.4%, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board.
Moreover, fish remains the principal form of protein for Filipinos, so overfishing and the decrease in fish populations will have effects on food security.
Lim identified four key areas of future research in the country, particularly the monitoring of “interactive impacts of government responses” through programs such as establishing Marine Protected Areas and assessing their ecological, social, and economic dimensions.
Assessment will be made of the “limits” to which resources could be used from coastal and marine resources, explained Lim.
There will also be further development of incentives to encourage payment for ecosystem services, as well as sustainable financing mechanisms dedicated to helping protect the marine environment.