Oceana’s Christmas Statement
Press Release Date: December 25, 2023
The Christmas season is not just a time for celebration and reunions but also affords us moments to pause and reflect if our actions in the past months and years have contributed significantly to make real reforms in ocean governance based on science and the law, with our fellow citizens becoming more engaged, and their voices heard and, equally important, policy-makers are becoming transparent and inclusive in decision-making. These are essential if we are to leave a safe, healthy and resilient world that our children and their children deserve to live in. This is the best legacy we can give them.
The truth is, despite our progressive legal system that protects our human and environmental rights, the state of our fisheries is dismal, with overfishing, illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing, destruction of our marine habitats and widespread pollution being serious threats to our existence, aggravated by the climate crisis we all face. It is the height of irony that the coastal communities are the most food and nutritionally insecure sector especially the young children and lactating mothers and pregnant women.
Amid these challenges in the fight to make our oceans healthy and abundant, there is reason to be optimistic. A solid foundation and strong partnership have been forged among stakeholders to ensure that the reforms to make fisheries management sustainable and natural life support systems resilient are strengthened.
Oceana appreciates the important role of key partners in government, artisanal fisheries sector, academe, civil society organizations including our youth and media in collaborating with us in achieving ocean victories and milestones for habitat protection and embedding science in management this year, as follows:
- The House of Representatives approved on third reading the bill declaring Panaon Island as a protected seascape. With Senate approval and signing into law of the bill hopefully soon, the protection of this coral-rich island in Southern Leyte, a priority area of the government to meet its 30 by 30 target, is enhanced. Strengthening its protection results in healthy ecology, abundant fisheries, and increased resilience of the oceans and the people dependent on them to withstand the impacts of climate change.
- Mangroves, like coral reefs are important marine ecosystems where coastal communities depend on for food and livelihood. For the Philippines that has one of the longest coastlines in the world, mangroves are our frontiers against storm surges and other climate change threats to coastal communities apart from carbon sequestration. This year, the House of Representatives also gave its nod on third reading House Bill 7767, also known as the Integrated Coastal Management/Coastal Greenbelt Bill that requires the restoration of mangrove forest areas and establishes local coastal greenbelt zones nationwide. This has been forwarded to the Senate.
- Recognizing the importance of sardines which account for 15% of the national’s total fish catch, the Bureau of Fisheries directed all its regional offices to fully implement management plans including the 2020 National Sardines Management Plan in all 12 Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) nationwide. The science-based and participatory FMA system established in 2019, if properly implemented, will help rebuild our fisheries.
- To enhance monitoring, control and surveillance in fishing activities, the President issued a directive in June 2023, directing the Fisheries Bureau and other relevant agencies to fully implement the vessel monitoring system among all commercial fishing vessels. This is a significant step to ensure that the 15-kilometer zone from the shore, called municipal waters, is kept off limits from commercial fishing operations. This will keep coral reefs and seagrass beds fully protected and juvenile fishes are not prematurely caught by commercial fishers apart from honoring the constitutional guarantee of preferential access by our small-scale fishers to their fishing grounds.
With these milestones, we celebrate the strengthened unity and linkages among partners and allies sharing the vision of a sustainable, safe and resilient present and future for all. We will continue the collaboration to push for the government’s cohesive actions to enforce their mandates and realize our dream of restoring fisheries abundance, and uplift the lives and well-being of fisherfolk, women, children and our coastal communities and every Filipino.
The dream is indeed in our hands if coupled with unyielding determination, partnership, and participatory and evidence-based decision-making.
Maligayang Pasko sa lahat! (END)
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 275 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, oil and plastic pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles, whales, and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit Oceana.org and ph.oceana.org to learn more.
For More Information:
Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana
Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: email@example.com