Int’l Sea Expert: PH is Marine Conservation Model to World

Int’l Sea Expert: PH is Marine Conservation Model to World

“The [No-Take Marine Reserves] strategy worked in Apo Island, so we know that it can be done,” said National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Oceana Senior Adviser Alexandra Cousteau, adding that if marine conservation can be accomplished in the Philippines, it will set an example to the whole world.

Cousteau was invited as speaker during the General Integrative Lecture Series that streamlined Oceana’s global campaign, “Save the Oceans, Feed the World” on September 2 at Silliman’s Audio Visual Theater 1.

Oceana is the largest international non-government organization focused solely on oceans, dedicated to achieving measurable change by conducting specific, science-based campaigns with fixed deadlines and articulated goals.

Before Cousteau delivered her talk, National Scientist and Professor Emeritus Dr. Angel C. Alcala discussed the programs and efforts done by the University in conserving marine biodiversity, especially with its long-term preservation projects in Apo Island.

Alcala reported that after 26 years of establishing and maintaining the Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Apo Island, the biomass of fish increased 27 times (100-150 tons of target species per square kilometer). He and his team has also proven that a biomass of 100 or more fish from the MPA spill over to the fished areas, providing fishable stock for fishers. Alcala added that as a result of the MPA and the abundant fish spill-overs, fishers fish 50-100 meters from the shore using hand-paddled canoes; thus, no fossil fuel is used in their fishing.

The concept of No-Take Marine Reserves was adopted by many nations, including Vietnam and Indonesia. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, USA has showcased the Apo Island model of coral reef conservation, Alcala added.

In her talk, Cousteau emphasized the role of the Philippines in marine conservation, stating that it is the center of marine biodiversity in the world. Being the granddaughter of famous Sea Explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, Alexandra shared that she grew up in the ocean. “My grandfather taught me to dive when I was seven.  But as I grew older, and when I revisited the places I went to as a child, I realized that those places are disappearing. They weren’t there anymore. They were littered, they were overfished, they were gone. And I realized very quickly the urgency of ocean conservation,” Alexandra said, adding that a nation that is tied with the ocean – whose lands, food security, transportation, and cultures are shaped by waters – know this urgency better than most.

As citizens of an archipelagic nation, Alexandra invited the Filipino people to support Oceana’s campaign to restore the ocean’s vitalities by stopping overfishing, controlling bycatch, and protecting nurseries.

During the open forum, Alexandra elaborated that the youth can do their share in small ways by being mindful of the fish they eat, making sure that they are not contributing to the profit of those who fish illegally.

“We need all the innovative ideas we can find to stop overfishing, to control bycatch, and stand firm in preserving our marine protected areas,” Alexandra said, inviting the audience to contribute their solutions, talents, and ideas. “We can’t just protect the oceans because we love it. We have to protect it because it is part of our lives,” she added.

Alexandra also presented a video by Oceana, stating how our oceans provide 700 million meals a day; and that amidst all the abuses done to it, it remains resilient in healing itself and feeding the world.

“Our oceans can feed our hungry planet, so we need to bring our focus to one of the sources of our lives,” she said.

Alexandra further stated that people should be exploring the oceans, not exploiting it. She said that her grandfather believed that if we could go deeper and longer into the sea – showed people what’s underneath the ocean – and come back with a story, we could change the world.

Currently, Oceana is exploring the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape and campaigning for its protection against illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters. It also plans to collaborate with Sen. Cynthia Villar to pass a bill that will investigate illegal fishing in the country.