Renowned Marine Biologists Talk About Ocean Conservation



Press Release Date

January 17, 2018

A team of marine biologists led by the world’s top fisheries scientist, Dr. Daniel Pauly, called for stronger action to conserve and protect our fisheries resources at the Seda Vertis North hotel in Manila today. 

The Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia and a co-founder of online fish encyclopedia FishBase.org, Dr. Pauly and his team’s global, multi-year analyses of fish catches have helped the public understand the plight of the oceans – particularly the fact that fish populations all over the world are plummeting.

“We cannot let fishery resources continue to be overfished. This endangers our food security, both in the short term and in the long term, because overfishing also demolishes the ecosystems within which these resources are embedded,” said Pauly, who also sits on Oceana’s board of directors. 

With Dr. Pauly were Drs. William Cheung, Cornelia Nauen and Maria Lourdes Palomares. The scientists all shared their thoughts with key stakeholders from the government, academia and civil society on how best to manage fisheries and conserve the country’s vast but threatened marine ecosystems.

Blessed with 36,000 kilometers of coast, nearly 30,000 square kilometers of coral reefs and about 1170 square kilometers of mangroves, the Philippines is among Earth’s richest countries in terms of marine biodiversity. In 2014, it ranked eighth among the top fish producing countries in the world, with total production amounting to 4.7 million metric tons of seafood.

However, overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution, climate change and the destruction of critical marine habitats are taking a toll on the country’s ability to produce food. According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 10 out of 13 fishing grounds or about 75% of the country’s fishing sites are overfished. The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute and the Biodiversity Management Bureau further revealed that less than 1% of Philippine coral reefs are in excellent condition – an alarming fact, taking into account that many species of fish and invertebrates live and breed in coral reefs.

In 2015, the Philippine Fisheries Code was amended, bolstering enforcement efforts such as requiring fishing boats to adopt vessel-monitoring technologies. The government is now looking at science-based fisheries tools like harvest-control rules and reference points, while setting stiffer penalties for fishing violators. However, enforcement hasn’t been smooth-sailing.

“These alarming wake-up calls should compel all of us to work together to finally stop and eradicate illegal and destructive fishing,” says Oceana Philippines Vice President Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos. “Coastal local government units and national agencies like the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of the Interior and Local Government and our police and armed forces must ramp-up enforcement efforts to protect the marine resources we still have. Local communities must continue to collaborate with various stakeholders and be vigorously engaged in assessing and evaluating performance of public authorities in coastal and marine protection and take action to ensure sustainable management of our fisheries.”

Due to climate change, pollution and human pressures, scientists predict that over 90% of the world’s coral reefs will vanish by 2050 – robbing people of one of the richest food producing systems on Earth. 

Oceana Philippines and other environmental nonprofits like Rare Philippines plus local fisheries champions are working hand-in-hand with the government to protect our oceans and end illegal and destructive fishing, such as commercial fishing in both municipal waters and protected areas, as well as bottom trawling.

Dr. Daniel Pauly is the Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. His global, multi-year analyses of marine ecosystems have allowed him and foremost fisheries scientists to reach startling and important conclusions – most critical among them that fish populations are declining rapidly all over the world. (Oceana)

Fish populations all over the world are plummeting rapidly. Shown is a lone skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) being sold in the Philippines. (Gregg Yan)

Location: Manila, Philippines
Contact: Gregg Yan (GYan@oceana.org)