March 2015 Newsletter

March 2015 Newsletter

Cebu Mayor, Nelson Gamaliel Garcia at a Tanon Strait Protected Seascape Stakeholders summit has publicly stated that “Dolphins, whales, sharks are parasites and some of them should be killed”. Ironically, the summit was supposedly meant to restore the beauty and bounty of Tañon Strait, the largest marine protected area in the Philippines.

But the mayor, whose town is right by the strait, lamented that these marine species have caused waning fish catch and compete with people for food because they consume at least two tons of fish a day. He suggested controlling the population of dolphins, whales, and sharks in the strait by killing some of them.

This has been met with outrage locally and internationally, especially given that in Cebu and Bohol, dolphins and whale sharks have become part of the booming tourism industry.  Pamilacan Island in Bohol and the town of Oslob in Cebu, for instance, are known for their sought-after dolphin watching and whale shark watching, respectively.

Mayor Garcia, however, contended that these marine species are not meant for watching and that tourism does not only rely on them.

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Push for global ban on Nautilus trade as populations in the Philippines on verge of extinction

A palaeontologist is calling for a global ban on the trade of the highly sought-after Nautilus seashell. Professor Ward returned from the Philippines where he discovered the Nautilus was close to extinction at sites known for Nautilus fishing.

“The Nautilus situation we found in the Philippines was mind-boggling,” says Professor Ward. “The Philippines have been at the centre of Nautilus fishing for decades. Now it is just about extinct there. Nautilus − often called “living fossils” because they have survived relatively unchanged for millions of years − live at the bottom of the sea at depths of 100-600 metres in deep reefs in the Indo-Pacific region, including Australia.

Desired for their beautiful shells, they are heavily fished and traded internationally. Dr Ward found Nautilus at rates of 10-15 per square kilometer in the Great Barrier Reef, but in the Philippines they were 100-200 times more rare than that ̶ virtually extinct in the Bohol Strait and completely gone from three other classic fishing locations.

“Nautilus is the ‘canary in the coalmine’ of the deep reef environment,” he says. “It tells us about the health of our deeper reefs where little ecological study is done. When Nautilus are present, we know that the other fish at those depths are also at risk from overfishing or other environmental factors. We cannot rule out high acidity and warming of these formerly cool, deep waters caused by climate change, and from rising levels of silt caused by nearby deforestation.”

Professor Ward is best known globally for his work and theories on the mass extinctions of Earth’s history. “Nautilus has survived every single mass extinction event that’s been thrown at it over half a billion years, now it’s being wiped out by humans to sit on a bathroom shelf or as a pretty button on someone’s shirt,” he says.

Professor Ward is taking his findings from the Philippines and other expeditions to a meeting in Washington DC next week of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This meeting will determine US policy on Nautilus trade before the next round of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

UCF members prepare for the 2015 Saving Philippines Reef PR Expedition at Camiguin Island

Four Unico Conservation Foundation members joined this year’s expedition onboard the Discovery Fleet to survey Tubbutaha Reef Natural Park. Since our previous trip the The Discovery Fleet underwent a major makeover, with great results. The boat was completed transformed  into a state of the art liveaboard while still retaining its charm and character. What hadn’t changed was the spectacular service and support crew and it was great to see some friendly faces.

Leaving from the port of Puerto Princesa, the expedition team headed out for the 5 day expedition to what is considered one of the top ten diving sites in the world. Consisting of two atoll reefs Tubbutaha was declared a World Heritage Site in 1994 and is the best regional example of a well-protected, no fishing, marine park that contains a diverse variety of fish, corals and other animals in clear and pollution free waters.

– See more at: link?

Unico Conservation members are starting to pack their gear for this years SPR Expedition at Camiguin Island in the Philippines. Camiguin Island lies in the Bohol Sea, between Mindanao and Bohol Islands, about 50 km south of Bohol. With seven active volcanoes, it is known as the Island Born of Fire. The island’s geology gives the island its numerous waterfalls, hot springs, and a highly diverse flora and fauna. In addition, Camiguin is fringed by diverse coral reefs and a growing number of marine protected areas (MPAs) that attract marine enthusiasts.

The reef monitoring expedition will determine the coral reef condition around Camiguin Island in selected MPAs. There are about 30 declared MPAs in which baseline surveys have been conducted in 2008 and in 2012 by the Camiguin Coastal Resource Management Project. This expedition will measure change since the time of the baseline surveys and will support the current management of Camiguin Province MPAs and indicate effectiveness of protection from illegal fishing and improper tourism activities in the area.Stay tuned for the results.