Tuesday, October 12, 2004

State of the seas

Sunset over bay Posted by Hello

Pic: Sunset over Bolinao Bay, the silhouette of a Portuguese lighthouse (defunct and replaced with a newer version) stands guard as a beacon for incoming ships of the past. Bolinao Bay, Philippines, 2004.

The calm waters of the Bolinao Bay now houses thousands of fish cages to harvest the local staple of bangus (milk fishes) especially for the making if sinigang (milk fish broth made using herbs and rice water). The straits are so choked full of cages that at times our boat faced the real danger of submerging if it ever hits one of the poles jutting from the waterline. Fish pens also bring about vast amounts of pollutants from unused fish feed to excreta from the stocks into the bay. Yet still the outer islands like Silaki still provides excellent habitats for giant clams and sea urchins, which stocks are strained due to uncontrolled harvesting prior. This is the contradiction faced by most of the Philippines, overpopulation has caused an imbalance in the distribution of wealth, amenities and development. Many people live in shanties which can even be seen in the metropolitan cities such as Makati and Manila. The seas are often stressed as people, most of them fishermen, harness the seas endlessly and thus stressing them further to the breaking point. Fish stocks, a staple protein source for the masses, are depleting and efforts are underway to find a compromise and address the food situation as well as the preservation of the rich environment found only in the Philippines. Minor action groups in the form of Community Based Management (CBM) groups are very active here, volunteers from Barangays (local town districts) forgo income to help in ensuring fish stocks are available for long term use, areas are designated marine protected areas (MPAs) and used as income generators by taking tourists diving or sightseeing the mangroves and coral reefs while fishermen’s wives supplement income by practicing craft making or food sales.

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