Part I

This marine aquarium fish collector squirts cyanide into a thicket of staghorn corals (Acropora sp.). This destructive technique is illegal in most areas but poorly enforced.

This marine aquarium fish collector squirts cyanide into a thicket of staghorn corals (Acropora sp.). This destructive technique is illegal in most areas but poorly enforced.

LIKE Hawaii, concerned citizens of the Philippines should mount an effort to ban the export and trade of marine aquarium fishes, which has been linked to the loss of biodiversity in our ocean, and the near-collapse of our fishing industry.

Associated with the export of marine aquarium fishes are the exploitation and destruction of corrals, including marine aquarium organisms that form part of a healthy ecological system.

Concerned with the high rate of export of aquarium fish to the US mainland, Hawaii residents on the Big Island came out with a resolution to ban the practice.

The proposed ban is the latest in a string of proposals to end the collection and sale of fishes and various invertebrates in the Hawaii’s most important marine aquarium fishery. All previous proposals have been defeated.

In the Philippines, authorities have been warning that fishery stocks are in danger of collapse due to various factors, one of them the destruction of coral reefs while in the process of catching marine aquarium fishes for export. The method usually employs the use of cyanide to stun the fish.

However, cyanide residues remain in the corrals, which eventually kill them and depriving other marine creatures of important habitat.

According to recent studies, “Humans in some manner have destroyed between 5 and 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs and will succeed in destroying 40 to 60 percent of them in the next 60 years unless trends change. ”

This loss comes from a variety of sources, including over-exploitation by fishermen looking for new sources of income, which result in the decimation of the reef community.

The study added that the coral reef is also vulnerable to global warming and the increasing intensity of the sun’s ultraviolet rays due to ozone depletion.

Tourism has also been blamed as contributing to the corals destruction as many of them attempt to bring home some corals as souvenirs, while others simply trample over these sensitive creatures.

Boats and associated sea craft often drop anchor over the reefs.

“Nearly 80 percent of Philippine coral reefs are under high or very high threat mostly due to overfishing and destructive fishing, which affects 98 percent of reefs,” according to recent studies.

Authors Marc Nolting and Berthold Schirm in an article on coral said, “Coral reefs around the Philippines are the source of more than half of the world’s colorful, tropical marine fish. Together with Indonesia, the Philippines supplies an estimated 85 percent of the world’s saltwater ornamental aquarium fish.

Over the past decades, cyanide fishing, despite being illegal, has become a common method used to catch ornamental aquarium fish on the reefs.

Since the 1960s, more than 150 tons of deadly sodium cyanide has been squirted onto Philippine coral reefs. The destruction of coral reef habitats affects not only the ornamental fish population but also the small-scale fishery that provides a livelihood for thousands of poor fishermen.

Today there are almost 4,000 aquarium fish collectors operating around the country.

The market for aquarium fish is steadily growing worldwide: today exports to developed countries from the Philippines are worth more than US $ 6.4 million a year (1998).

(To be continued) By FLORO M. MERCENE


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