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Philippines : SGMA pushes for shark conservation in the Philippines.

The House of Representatives approved on second reading House Bill No. 8926 or the proposed "Shark Conservation Act of the Philippines," which seeks to regulate the catching, sale, purchase, possession, transportation, importation, and exportation of all sharks, rays, and chimaeras in the country. HB 8926, principally authored by former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, aims to address the extinction of marine wildlife and achieve a balance between human needs and the integrity of the Philippine marine ecosystem. It shall provide for the conservation of sharks, and related classes, as well as the threats to their existence.

"Sharks are typically depicted as apex predators that have significant top-down effects on food webs. They help keep prey populations healthy by feeding on weak, sick, or old fishes, and prevent overgrazing of critical marine habitats," Speaker Arroyo said. Speaker Arroyo further explained that, "the removal of sharks from an ecosystem has the potential to create significant changes to predator-prey interactions, affecting the whole system. Aside from ecological benefits, sharks and rays have also been proven to boost local economies through sustainable tourism activities, and through fisheries in many developing countries."

As stipulated in the bill, the Department of Agriculture (DA) shall have jurisdiction over the regulation of the consumption and preservation of sharks, rays, and chimaeras in all Philippine waters. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the DA (DA-BFAR) shall be the lead agency for the implementation of this proposed Act. The measure provides that no person or entity shall be allowed possession of a shark unless proven that they have the financial and technical capability and facility to maintain the specie.

In addition, the DA-BFAR shall determine the non-detriment findings (NDF) or the risk assessment for targeted and incidentally caught shark species. With this, the collection and possession of shark, ray, and chimaera species shall only be allowed when the results of the NDF show that, despite the extent of specie collection, the population of such can still remain viable and capable of recovering its numbers.

The DA-BFAR shall also be tasked to determine threatened shark species or subspecies. They shall utilize the following criteria: (a) present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range, (b) over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes, and (c) inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms, among others.

The measure seeks to declare as unlawful the killing, keeping captive, and trading vulnerable, threatened, endangered, or critically endangered species, except when it is done as part of the rituals of established tribal groups or indigenous cultural communities, when the shark is afflicted with an incurable or communicable disease, or when it is killed after being used in authorized research or experiments.

Other illegal acts specified in the bill include the following: (a) inflicting injury that impairs the reproductive system of sharks, (b) disturbing sharks and their habitats, (c) finning, (d) falsely advertising or mislabeling products that could mislead consumers, (e) introducing, reintroducing, or restocking of shark species without permits, and (f) use of shark wires, among others.

The bill provides for a punishment for each illegal act. Individuals who kill, harass ,or inflict injury on a critically endangered specie shall be penalized with an imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years, as well as a fine of P100,000 up to P1 million per animal.

Likewise, introducing or restocking of shark species without permits shall entail an imprisonment of one month to eight years, and a penalty of P5,000 up to P5 million. The proposal seeks to increase the fines by 10 percent every three years to compensate for inflation and to maintain its deterrent function. It also directs the local government units (LGUs) to initiate conservation measures for economically valuable species in their areas. They may adopt flagship species such as the whale shark or the thresher shark, which shall serve as their emblems of conservation.

The bill then calls for the BFAR, the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources,Tourism, and Trade and Industry, the LGUs, and other academic institutions to undertake a nationwide information and education campaign to inform the Filipinos of the value of sharks and rays in the marine ecosystem, and importance of preserving their respective habitats and feeding grounds.

"The bill aims to find the intersection between management and utilization in the hopes of finding balance between human needs and the integrity of the Philippine marine ecosystem. The conservation of sharks, management of threats, and creation of shark sanctuaries through this bill will serve as an example that can be replicated with other fisheries and wildlife conservation issues in the country," stated Speaker Arroyo.

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Publication:Mena Report
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 4, 2019
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