Philippine Coral Reef Fisheries - FTP-UNU


Philippine Coral Reef Fisheries - FTP-UNU
Philippine Coral Reef
Fisheries - Challenges
and Frustrations
The Marine Science Institute
University of the Philippines
Diliman 1101 Quezon City
Philippine Coral Reef Fisheries
[ In the distant Past] “Teach a man to fish and he
will have food for the rest of his life”
[ Now] “Teach a man to fish and he will resort to
unsustainable methods to remain competitive with
the overabundance of fisherman”
Anonymous (White and Trinidad-Cruz 1998)
The Philippines is blessed with having one of the
most extensive coral reefs (2nd to Indonesia in the
ASEAN) found in the heart of the highest diversity
region in the marine world (Burke et al. 2001). Reef
fisheries has been estimated to directly contribute to
around 15 – 30% of the total national municipal
fisheries (Murdy and Ferraris 1980, Carpenter and
Alcala 1977). Its total reef area covers around 27,000
– 44,000 km2 (Table 1) (Burke et al. 2001, Carpenter
and Alcala 1977, Gomez 1980 and White and CruzTrinidad 1998). One of the hypothesis for the
significance of the high biodiversity in coral reefs
concerns the resilience of this ecosystem to various
natural stresses, perhaps not including the stresses in
relation to fisheries overexploitation (Fig. 1). In this
Table 1. Basic geographic and economic indicators (Source: Burke et al. 2001)
Figure 1. Major observed threats to coral reefs (Source: Burke et al. 2001)
region of high diversity, the Filipinos’ high
dependence on this important life support system is
put to a test (Table 2). In the Philippines nearly 70%
of the protein food intake is from fish. The stark
contrast between poverty, hunger and deprivation
amidst this increasing want is the rapidly declining
reef resources (Fig. 2) (White and Cruz-Trinidad
1998). It is no surprise that it is in the Philippines
that reefs are in the highest risk from overexploitation,
destructive fishing and other human related impacts
such as coastal development and sedimentation
(Burke et al. 2001). To date, over 70% are in a poor
state and less than 5% are in excellent condition
(Licuanan and Gomez 2000).
In addition, there is increasing evidence that the
Table 2. Total annual economic benefits derived from coral reefs, fisheries and mangroves in the Philippines, 1996.
(Source: White and Cruz-Trnidad 1998)
Figure 2. Trend of catch per unit of effort in Olango Island Cebu, Philippines. (Source: White and Cruz-Trinidad
susceptibility of reefs to El Niño related bleaching
events and their recovery rates is related to the wellbeing of the diverse assemblage of species and
functional integrity (e.g. trophic diversity) (Nañola
et al. 2000, Arceo et al. 2000). These studies suggest
that it is difficult to tease out the interaction of
naturally induced stresses vis-à-vis human induced
pressures. Jackson et al. (2001) have shown that
various fisheries in the world have undergone various
phases of decline due to fisheries overexploitation
and that reefs are stark examples of phase shifts (i.e.,
coral dominated to algal domination) in the habitat’s
Table 3. Summary of mean catch rate (catch per trap) and catch composition data for trap fishing on reef and
associated stocks in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and South Pacific regions (Source: Dalzell 1996)
Table 3. (continuation)
benthic community structure (McClanahan, 1990 in
Jennings and Lock, 1996).
Nowhere is the understanding of reefs and its
management, as challenging and frustrating as in the
area of highest diversity and of complex societal
development demands (Roberts et al. 2002). Consider
the Philippines’ experience and learn how from its
successes and failures so we may use this to improve
our understanding and effectiveness in managing
complex ecosystems. This complexity of the coral
reef ecosystem is manifested in the varied fishing
systems, and fishing gear interactions in the highly
diverse multi-species reef fishery.
Christensen (1995) has utilized the coral reef as one
Table 4. Summary of catch rates (CPUE, catch-per-unit effort) and catch composition from spear fishing on South
Pacific reefs. (Source: Dalzell 1996)
Table 5. Estimated yields from reef fisheries in the Indian Ocean, Caribbean and South Pacific (Source: Dalzell
of the examples in his ecopath models of a mature
ecosystem in his proposition of the linkage of carrying
capacity and the ecosystem “maturity” in the
development of management approaches to complex
marine ecosystems. Polunin et al (1996) cites Aliño
et al (1993) that the development of more computer
friendly multispecies models may help facilitate
investigations and hypotheses generations (Fig. 5).
Philippine reef fisheries exemplify not only the
various types of overfishing but also the widespread
prevalence in the Philippines. From the oceanic reefs
Figure 5. Ecopath model of Bolinao reef ecosystem. (Source: Aliño et al 1993)
(1) Rakenet usedto
collect shellsandsmall
(2) Seagrassand
(Acropora) onthereef flat
(3) Seaurchins
(Tripneustesgratilla) from
of the Kalayaan Islands in the west of the Philippines,
the Tubataha reefs in the Sulu Sea, and the fringing
reefs around the archipelago we see varying degrees
of exploitation. Hilomen et al. 2000, and Aliño et al.
1996 show how understanding the dynamics of reef
fish assemblages give an idea of the state and
pressures of overexploitation.
(4) Small fishcapturedby
gillnet onthereef flat.
Figure 6. Scenes from Bolinao reef flat fisheries (part
1). (Source: McManus et al. 1992)
(5) Fishtrapcamouflagedwith
(6) Creel openedtoreveal several
(7) Anchor designedtocatchon
Figure 7. Scenes from the Bolinao reef fisheries (part
2). (Source: McManus et al. 1992)
It would seem that the initial reports of Hughes (1994)
on how fisheries affect the coral reef‘s benthic
community structure complements well with Pauly
et al’s fishing down the food chain story. McManus
(1997) presentation about the Bolinao reef fisheries
(McManus et al 1992, Figs. 6-8) also suggests that
indeed there might be this cascading effect in the
change in the species composition of its fish
assemblages (Fig. 9). Recently, we have suggested
that in just less than a decade reef fish standing stocks
are half than what has been recorded two decades
ago (Deocadez et al. 2001) (Table 6).
The case of Bolinao and Lingayen Gulf is a familiar
case in many developing countries where much of
the fisheries management approaches have been
based on “demand” side concerns (e.g. how much
allowable catch of single species stocks). In addition
the development concerns of the stakeholders have
not been appropriately considered (e.g. the scale of
the stock boundaries [e.g. area of management vis-àvis stakeholder and user domains and fisheries
resources interaction] and the effective tools to
manage the resources).
(10) Spear gunsarecarvedfrom
wood, andarepoweredbyrubber
(11) Gillnetterslapsthewaterto
(12) Close-upof afishcorral.
Figure 8. Scenes from Bolinao reef fisheries (part 3).
(Source McManus et al. 1992)
Earlier (in the South China Sea lecture) we have
learned that with the multispecies approach, one has
to take into consideration the species interactions (e.g.
predatory losses versus fishing mortality). Its
implication to management is that despite the high
species diversity of the reef fisheries, its resilience
(upper carnivores like sharks have been disseminated
and also the sea urchin herbivores) is not as robust as
expected and well understood in terms of how fish
stocks can withstand increased fishing pressure. In
addition, the trajectory of development of the fisheries
assemblage is not as easily prescribed (e.g. linear
Figure 9. Species abundance profiles of
adult reef slope fish from year-end
months. (Source: McManus et al 1992)
directionality or unidirectionally or the
multidimensional aspects are not well determined)
both in the social development perspective and in
the biophysical context.
In Bolinao, ever since the late 1980’s fisheries
resources decline have been perceived but the
solutions to this situation have not been well agreed
upon by the stakeholders in the area. Most fishers
contend that there was not really a considerable
decline of the stocks but rather just an increase in the
number of fishers. Initial interventions in regulating
the major harvested stocks by banning the commercial
harvest of the sea urchin Tripnuestes gratilla and
close season regulations for the rabbitfish Siganus
fuscescens have been too late and inadequate (JunioMenez et al. 1998) (Fig. 10). Perhaps the
observation’s in Deocadez’s et al. (2001) are already
the indication of a phase shift as described by
McClanahan (1990) as cited by Jennings and Lock
Table 6. Fish abundance in counts per 1000 m-2 in six municipalities in Lingayen Gulf from 1988-2000. (Source:
Deocadiz et al. 2001)
764 + 88
800 +164
714 +202
610 +195
831 + 106
588 + 120
315 +121
240 +78
347 + 179
216+ 52
319 +83
200 +74
San Fernando
197 +54
Values are lumped over a multiple-year monitoring period
censuses were conducted within Malilnep Marine Protected area
This study
Figure 10. Sea urchin harvest profile in Bolinao, Pangasinan. (Source: Junio-Meñez et al. 1998)
(1996) (Fig.11). Thus after 1995, the sea urchin stock
collapsed and smaller rabbitfish are now being
harvested. A 150 hectare area was initially proposed
based on the spawning migratory route of the
rabbitfish (Pastor et al. 2000). After negotiating for
over six years for the establishment of a fish sanctuary
in the area, the consensually agreed size has been
considerably reduced to around 20 hectares without
any effective implementation of management. The
primary resistance to the establishment of a no-take
fish sanctuary is that, it would threaten the livelihood
of over a thousand subsistence fishers in the area.
Some innovative ways had to be pursued such that
the facilitation of setting up of de-facto reproductive
reserves was pursued (Arceo et al. 2000 and Pastor
et al. 2000). Eventually other village fisher
Figure 11. Relationship between the abundance of coral (c), algae (a) and sea urchin (u) after reefs have been
subjected to different fishing regimes for a period of 30 years. Adapted from the results of a model developed by
McClanahan (1990) as cited by Jennings and Lock (1996)
Figure 12. Projected changes in the number of coral species (filled circles), the abundance of corals (open circles)
and fish catch (triangles) if sedimentation from logging operations (filled squares) were to continue for a 10 year
period at El Nido, Palawan. (Source: Hodgson and Dixon (1988) adapted by McManus 1996)
cooperators have been motivated to establish growout areas for sea – urchins and rabbitfish (JuinioMenez et al. 1998 and Pastor et al. 2000).
The Bolinao experience shows that establishing notake areas are important but with the complex
multispecies fishery and diverse user groups
multipronged approaches are necessary to make some
headway. In the example of Palawan (Fig. 12)
(Hodgson and Dixon 1988), as in the Bolinao
fisheries, management measures have to be pursued
in the context of integrated coastal management
(Arceo et al. 2000), vis-a-vis stopping logging and
benefit from ecotourism and sustainable municipal
Scenes from the Pa-aling Reef Fisheries
Adapted from Miclat et al. 1991
Figure 13. Schematic diagram of the Pa-aling drive-in
reef fisheries adapted from Miclat et al. 1991.
Figure 14. Fishermen with scareline hoses disembarking
from mothership. (Source: Miclat et al. 1991)
Photo courtesy of BFAR Interagency Task Force
Photo courtesy of BFAR Interagency Task Force
Figure 15. Fishermen prepare arrangement of scareline
hoses with their support compressor boats. (Source:
BFAR 1992)
Figure 16. A closer look of how the scare line hose (with
lead weights) and bubbles blow to scare fish towards the
set net . (Source: BFAR 1992)
Photo courtesy of BFAR Interagency Task Force
Figure 17. Underwater haul of net fishing on reefs not
using Pa-aling. (Source: BFAR 1992)
Figure 18. An underwater scene of Pa-aling indicates
it’s high efficiency in the South China Sea reefs. (Source:
BFAR 1992)
The importance of a bigger picture outlook is seen in
the evolution of the commercial reef fishery called
“muro-ami”. Banned in 1986, the clamor to lift the
ban on muro-ami was seen more to modify a fishing
gear to be less destructive, rather than in regulating a
very effective gear (Miclat et al. 1991). Thus, the
bubble fishing scareline technique called “pa-aling”
was developed (Figs. 13 to 19). The development and
eventual permission of this fishing gear required that
a mechanism for the monitoring and evaluation of
this fishery is put in place. Aside from the child labor
concerns associated with the gear, the area of
operation for this gear was also restricted in the Sulu
Sea and South China Sea. Abesamis et al. 2000 has
shown that aside from the difficulties in implementing
compliance in the areas of operations for the gear,
the high efficiency of the gear has already shown a
decline in the catch rates of the reef assemblages (Fig.
19). Indeed, this exacerbates the already fully
exploited fisheries in the area and reefs susceptibility
to coral bleaching (Alino et al. 1998 and Arceo et al.
2000 in press).
The reef fisheries in the Philippines have become very
highly evolved and show the great continuing
challenges to the science and management of its
multispecies fisheries. McManus et al. (1992) and
Pastor et al (2000) has shown that reef fisheries
management in Bolinao needs to be viewed in a more
holistic context of integrated coastal management and
a macro-level outlook of societal development (Figs
20 and 21). In addition, marine reproductive reserves
in tandem with other enhancement mechanisms are
urgently needed.
1.90 to 1.30 mtons/yr
1.30 to 0.70
0.70 to 0.10
Source: UPMSI - DA/BFAR collaboration, Abesamis et al. (in press)
Figure 19. Catch-per-unit of effort (CPUE) from monitoring of pa-aling (1996-1998). (Source: UPMSI-DA/BFAR
collaboration, Abesamis et al. 2000)
Aquaculture has been considered as one of
the solutions to the declining fish yields in
coastal zone. Unfortunately, with the rapid
growth of the industry it has brought
considerable environmental and economic
Figure 20. Photos of
proliferation of fishepen in
Lingayen Gulf by Dr. Gil
S. Jacinto of The Marine
Science Institute.
Some recommendations for future actions
Learning from the “pa-aling” reef fisheries not only
highlights the concerns and susceptibility of reef
fisheries to fishing, but that no-take areas go beyond
local boundary concerns. Much as there is
susceptibility in some areas, it is important that there
are also areas for source of larvae to replenish the
areas of death. Indeed, we should turn our frustrations
into reefs of hope for the survival of the future
generation’s heritage and our life support system.
1. Enhance capabilities of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource
Management Councils (FARMC) and foster participation by
2. Clarify development and management goals, and facilitate
transparency and accountability in fisheries resource management
and governance mechanisms.
3. Explore innovative ways of regulating fishing effort and more
effective ways of enforcement and compliance.
4. Explore incentives for livelihood linked to sustainable resource
management and disincentives for unsustainable practices.
5. Improve effectiveness of enhancement and rehabilitation
measures through an ecosystem and integrated management
Figure 21. The participatory municipal coastal development plan of Bolinao, Pangasinan helps to provide an
integrated framework through zoning and community stewardship. (Source: Junio-Menez et al. 2000)
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