|MONTH OF THE OCEAN 2012|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2012 14:10|
The Philippines is highly regarded in the world for the richness of its coastal and marine resources. This archipelago was declared as the epicenter of marine biodiversity with the richest concentration of marine life on the entire planet by scientists (Dr. Kent Carpenter and Dr. Victor Springer in 2006) – based from a 10-year multi-disciplinary study for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) entitled: "The Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity: The Philippine Islands". The study identified the country as home to an astonishingly vast marine life, refuting previous studies indicating that Indonesia holds the highest fish diversity.This unique natural heritage is indeed a great pride for the Filipinos. However, with the astounding results of the study also came the discovery that the Philippines as well is the center of marine conservation adversity. With this, the continuing call to conserve and protect the Philippine coastal and marine environment is strongly being pursued.
In 1999, the month of May has been declared as the “Month of the Ocean” in the Philippines through the Presidential Proclamation No. 57 by then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. Section 2 of the Proclamation states that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) shall spearhead the observance of the Month of the Ocean (MOO) in collaboration with the different sectors of society through the conduct of activities that shall highlight the conservation, protection and sustainable management of Philippine coastal and ocean resources.
Since then, DENR has been annually celebrating the MOO through various activities that campaign for the continuous protection and conservation of our coastal and marine resources. This year, another array of activities has been set, with the theme: “Buhay Dagat, Buhay Natin!” in conjunction with the observance of the International Day of Biological Diversity (IDBD) on May 22 and its theme of Marine Biodiversity.
The theme “Buhay Dagat, Buhay Natin” encompasses a broad spectrum of owning and charging to all the protection and preservation of the country’s marine resources as it serves as a large basin of life sustenance in the land. The state of the country’s coastal and marine resources have been severely affected by the rapid increase in urbanization, industrialization and population that resulted to sedimentation and siltation from coastal development activities, coupled with illegal and destructive fishing methods and over fishing (Aliño, 2008). The country’s remaining mangrove area is now less than 24%; between 30% and 50% of seagrass beds were lost (Fortes, 1994) and only about 4% of the country’s coral cover is in excellent status, making the Philippines to be known as “hottest of the marine biodiversity hotspots in the world” (Roberts et al. 2002).
The prepared list of activities aspires to elevate the regard of the Filipinos to our oceans. Generally, it aims to bring marine conservation into a platform of high priority, emphasizing that our oceans at present is in its most fragile stage that requires serious collaborative action from all sectors.
In particular, the objectives of this year’s celebration are as follows:
The whale shark (Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828), locally called “Butanding” or “Tuki” is the iconic species for the celebration of the Month of the Ocean for 2012 because of its increasing popularity in the Philippines in the past years. It is the largest extant fish classified as ‘vulnerable (VU)’ under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is a protected species in the country. Very timely as it may seem, whale shark sightings in the Philippines occur year-round which peaks in some areas from February until the end of May, where these animals aggregate to feed on the surface near the coast. The whale shark is one of the many charismatic marine wildlife found in the country that are residents or who migrate in our waters to feed, mate or breed. This makes the Philippines a rich habitat that sustains the existence of a multitude of marine species making the country one of the megabiodiverse nations in the world. The whale shark is important as they provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to coastal communities through ecotourism.
The green Philippine map within the butanding symbolizes an archipelagic nation that continues to forge and strengthen environmental efforts and actions towards the protection and conservation of our marine resources for the well-being of the present and future generations.The theme “Buhay Dagat, Buhay Natin” is in consonance with the universal theme of “Marine Biodiversity” of the International Day of Biological Diversity (IDBD) on May 22, as declared by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. It captures the intrinsic link of the ocean’s bounties to the everyday existence of human beings.
The blue bubble butanding symbolizes the fragility and vulnerability of our ocean environment. If not protected or cared for, the ocean’s ecosystems will easily burst or destroyed, just like the bubbles.(Painting by Emie T. Ramoso'12)