By Roi Lomotan
DUMAGUETE CITY (PIA) – Close to 100 policymakers, advocates, government officials and shark enthusiasts participated in the 2nd Shark Summit held in Silliman University in this city and made a call for the protection of sharks at the national level.
The summit was held on November 10 and 11 in observance of Shark Conversation Week which aimed to raise the public’s awareness on the issues on conservation, management and utilization of sharks.
“Sharks play a vital role within marine ecosystems and protecting sharks is one of the one of the more holistic ways of saving marine environment,” said Naderev Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia who was at the event.
He explained that sharks are typically apex predators that help keep pray populations health by feeding on weak, sick old fishes and prevent over grazing of critical marine habitats.
“Removal of the sharks from an ecosystem has the potential to create significant changes to predator-prey interactions. Thus, saving sharks means we are also saving the future of our ocean,” he added.
This year’s summit had three objectives, namely: to review the accomplishments and gaps based on the commitments crafted at the 2014 Shark Summit held in Cebu, second is to identify solutions and stakeholders to address gaps and other emerging issues on shark management and conservation, and lastly, to review and enhance proposed policies on shark protection.
The Shark Summit hopes to play a significant role in strengthening the conservation of shark species in the Philippines and ensuring that the plans created during the Shark Conservation Week are supported by commitments, enforceable legislation and management.
“What is important for us is how are going to enforce our existing law, the Philippine Fisheries Code to protect sharks and come up with now is a national policy,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Oceans Campaigner Vince Cinches.
He noted that there is a pending Senate Bill filed by Sen. Win Gatchalian on shark and ray conservation which they want to be revised to be more effective, comprehensive, sustainable and inclusive.
“After this one, we will call for a meeting with him, a round table discussion (and) come up with a lobbying program to include other policy makers as well,” he added.
When asked on his opinion on shark summit, Cinches’s response was “In a nutshell, it was able to create a very vibrant community not just of scientists, researchers, policy makers but other sectors as well to push for a very important objective of managing and protecting sharks across the country. This is crucial for me.”
Meanwhile, Arnel Yaptinchay, director of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, cited the socio-economic benefits of protecting sharks especially with shark tourism like in the Philippines with sites like Donsol in Sorgoson which is known for whale sharks, Tubbataha reef for reef sharks, and Monad shoal for thresher sharks.
“Many more sites have this potential if only we could find a way to reduce the threat of unamanaged fishers to their populations,” he pointed out.
The devil ray and whale shark dried meat were popular for food consumption in the Visayas, until the fishing of giant manta rays and whale shark was banned in 1998.(rmn/ral/PIA7-Negros Oriental/ with reports from Diah Abida, Greenpeace/This article was originally published at PIA website on Nov. 12, 2016)