Cebu works, collaborates to be safe haven for sharks

The province of Cebu continues to intensify its advocacy of protecting its endangered marine species. This is manifested by its efforts to gather data and take action through coordination of involved agencies.

Part of the concrete and collaborative efforts is the conduct of a three-day “Shark and Manta Ray Ordinance Implementation Planning Workshop” at the Provincial Capitol. Held last July 1-3, it was spearheaded by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) and Greenpeace Philippines.

“The Provincial Government of Cebu has been very active in creating interventions to protect the rights of the people through healthy and balance ecology by protecting its marine resources,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.

The planning workshop was designed to gather ideas on how to implement Cebu’s shark and ray ordinances and address different issues related to rampant capturing and selling of endangered sharks throughout the province.

Aside from the discussions on how to strengthen the Provincial Ordinance No. 2012-05 known as the Provincial Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Ordinance of Cebu, the stakeholders also pointed out that the ordinance needs to be revisited in terms of enforcement aspects.

Provincial Board (PB) member Thadeo Ouano who also attended the planning workshop said that there are gaps that needs to be addressed, including commitment of the local government units and involved agencies, legal assistance, and information.

“We want the public to know that they are one of the keys to ensure the effectiveness of this ordinance. Reports from them can lead to an official enforcement of the authorities for proper procedures and solutions,”Atty. Chad Estella of PENRO said.

Action Plan

During the workshop, the stakeholders include government and non-government organizations. They produced a campaign called “Oplan Palwis (palwis is the bisaya term for shark’s dorsal fin) with its slogan “Iho Ko, Pinangga Ko”.

The Capitol, through Cebu Provincial Anti-Illegal Fishing Task Force (CPAIFT), was urged to identify a hotline number that can be used by the public when they report activities regarding sharks.

Also, in the coming days, CPAIFT will distribute copies of the ordinance to the municipalities, police stations and involved organizations.

Marlito Guidote, an enforcement specialist for Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries, revealed that some big restaurants and hotels in the city serve exotic food, including shark meat.

Guidote suggested that there should be a list of markets, fish landings and restaurants. He added that the Provincial Government can come up with policies or guidelines to the hotels and restaurants, prohibiting them to serve meat from this endangered species and issuing penalties for non-compliance.

It was also suggested that the government can involve the schools and universities for the campaign through seminars, workshops and contests.

Moonyeen Alava, executive director of Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation,Inc., attended the workshop provided context around shark and ray protection and conservation. She suggested that there should be hands-on training for the persons involved in the task force to be able to identify these endangered species.

Meanwhile, one of the most important discussions that the stakeholders pointed out was to find the primary problem of the people who are catching endangered species.

“They might have thought that capturing these species is the only livelihood that they can do. The province might be able to provide another source of livelihood for them,” said Lt. James Reyes of Philippine Navy.

The recommendations still need to be furnished and presented to Governor Hilario Davide for approval.

First of its kind sanctuary,

The activity involving the sharks and manta rays was very timely as Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro signed an Executive Order last June 29 declaring Monad Shoal and Gato Islet as a shark and ray sanctuary.

The mayor expressed that this declaration is also one of the best ways of giving back to these creatures for boosting the tourism industry in Daanbantayan.

During the Kapistorya last July 3, Mayor Corro with Estella and Cinches all agreed that the linkage between the government and non-government offices produce a fruitful partnership.

“We are actually happy for what the Provincial Government of Cebu has done for the past few months in terms of conserving our marine resources. It has shown that a strong leadership and strong political will have positive results,”Cinches added.

Representatives from Commercial Fishing (BAFOR, Inc.), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-7), Project Sharklink, Oceana, RMU-7, Malapascua Exotic Island Diver Resort, Cebu Yacht Club, Manta Trust, Save Philippine Seas, Divelink (Cebu), Ecofish-USAID, Provincial Lehal Office, and Provincial Veterinarian’s Office attended the workshop planning.

There are also several groups that supported this cause, such as, Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Masharklinkrine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Malapascua Marine Preservation Fund, and Thresher Shark Research Project.