Despite Outlawing Destructive Fishing, Philippines Reefs Still Suffer

Protecting the Philippines marine environment may prove more complicated than previously thought.

Some of the fishing methods used in today’s small-scale fisheries are causing more damage to coral reefs than ever, a new UBC study has found.

The study, conducted in the Philippines by the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries’ Project Seahorse and the Landscape Ecology Group at the University of British Columbia, tracked changes in the types of fishing methods—such as hand line, traps and nets—used on coral reefs between 1950 and 2010.

Researchers found that from the 1960s onwards, the use of relatively sustainable fishing methods like hook and line fishing remained stable, while there was a marked increase in the use of fishing practices that were less selective and more destructive, even illegal.

In particular, the study found that about a quarter of the fishers in the region use destructive fishing methods including explosives and poison, which were both outlawed by the Philippine government in 1932. Most other destructive fishing methods were outlawed by the government in 1998. Despite legislation that banned destructive fishing, the use of such illegal methods persisted. For example, a growing number of fishers used crowbars to break apart corals so they could catch valuable but elusive animals such as abalone.

Photo: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

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