Haribon highlights efforts against overfishing and biodiversity loss
In the next 15 to 25 years, our children may only learn about the once staple Philippine fish talakitok and maya-maya in science books, or perhaps in museums.
These fish species, along with at least 10 others in the Philippines, are on the brink of extinction in just over a decade’s time due to overharvesting and illegal fishing.
Filipinos depend on fish as one of their primary protein sources.
With the decline of biodiversity in marine life and other ecosystems, the growing demand for fish over time will undoubtedly affect nature’s ability to support itself and our communities.
Overfishing is just one of the many pressures causing biodiversity loss, along with habitat degradation, pollution, invasive alien species, climate change, and other forms of overexploitation and unsustainable use.
Historically, the value of nature and the life it provides us have been largely ignored until their alarming decline highlights their importance.
Deforestation, for example, has belatedly revealed the crucial role of forests in protecting millions of Filipinos against floods, landslides, droughts and storm surges.
Today, we are down to less than 25 percent of our forest cover (DENR, 2010) out of the 54 percent of the total land area (“Saving the present for the future,” Sajise, P.E. et al, 1992) that is necessary to support our sustenance. Data from environmental groups reveal an even smaller figure, if one considers forest ecosystems as multi-species rather than single-species tree plantations.
This picture of current Philippine biodiversity mirrors what is also happening in ecosystems around the globe.
Amidst the challenges to the environment, the Philippine government has taken up the challenge to uphold the integrity of its natural ecosystems in policy and in practice through the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP).
This national plan of action envisions that “by 2025, biodiversity is restored and rehabilitated, valued, effectively managed, secured, maintaining ecosystem services to sustain healthy, resilient Filipino communities and delivering benefits to all.”
Besides the identified natural and human-induced drivers of biodiversity loss, the latest Philippine report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) unveils institutional factors affecting biodiversity decline such as weak law enforcement, inconsistent and overlapping policies, and lack of political will.
Against these odds, global talks are regularly set out to tackle issues on biodiversity following a strategic framework composing of what is called as the Aichi targets.
Environmental champion Haribon Foundation works with partners at all levels in support of this bigger target within the next decade to curb biodiversity loss and promote resilience and sustainability.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), with Haribon, has recently deputized at least 26 Wildlife Enforcement Officers or more commonly known as the Bantay Gubat in the biodiversity-rich Mt. Mingan of the Sierra Madre mountain regions.
Sam Manalastas, community organizer for Haribon, reveals that the wildlife of the Mingan forests including the endemic Haring Ibon (Philippine Eagle) are imperiled by human activities such as slash-and-burn farming, timber poaching and other forms of deforestation.
As “guardians of the forest,” the Bantay Gubat helps ensure that threats to the forest ecosystem are reduced and sustainable use is promoted in accordance with forest protection laws.
In the marine ecosystem, on the other hand, marine species threatened with extinction were identified and recommendations were made through the Darwin Initiative, a project by Haribon and Newcastle University.
The Philippine report stressed that more work still needs to be done to make sure that critical areas are sustainably developed and managed.
As we observe the global Decade on Biodiversity (2011-2020), we are, more than ever, called on to take concrete actions, as individuals and as communities, to save our hurting environment so that when we look to our past, our children need not take history as a reference to appreciate the beauty and richness of life that we enjoy today.
KITTY AMANTE/HARIBON FOUNDATION