Threats to Marine Wildlife and Biodiversity in the Philippines


Illegal wildlife trade of maritime animals poses both economic and security threats to the Philippines. As exploitation continues to happen in the Philippines’ seas, implementing governing laws, both domestic and international, as well as persecution becomes harder; and much so in this time of high conflict in disputed waters.

In May 2014, another group of Chinese fishing boats were caught by the Philippine National Police 60 nautical miles off Palawan, a province in the western part of the country. The boats were loaded with 500 endangered sea turtles, about 400 of them dead and beheaded. 11 Chinese nationals and five Filipino nationals were caught and were brought before the Palawan Regional Trial Court, where they will be charged with violation against the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

Turtles are one of the main maritime animals that are illegally poached in the Philippine seas. six types of sea turtles, including the green turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle are listed as endangered species of the Philippines, but are continued to be poached for its meat and shells, a material used for luxury items. According to the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, there are about 29 species of sea and freshwater turtles that are sought for by illegal foreign poachers going to the country.

In a report, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development has revealed that since March 1995, there were 91 poaching incidents where 1,129 foreign nationals where involved. Most of these incidents happened in the Western Philippine province of Palawan, near the contested waters of the South China Sea. Apart from the endangered sea turtles, poachers have been found to have other harvested species such as oysters and corals, among others which fetch high prices in the market for their medicinal purposes. Without adequate equipment and weak law enforcement, rampant illegal acts that encroach Philippine sovereignty and, moreover, marine biodiversity, will continue in years to come.

On the other hand, overfishing poses a threat to national and local economies. The Philippines is one of the major producers of tuna in the world. General Santos City, the main producer of tuna in the Philippines, generates about USD 250 million in export revenues alone that directly benefits the 120,000 people in the tuna industry of the city.

In a report, Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) executive director Glenn Hurry notes that there is a need to limit the catch to where the Philippines should be lessening its production by at least 30 percent. The Philippines is a signatory to the commission. Overfishing trends show that tuna production in the Philippines may severely be affected if not addressed, which will strongly affect the total world production of fish.

On the other hand, industrial overfishing has depleted significantly the economic means of small fisherfolk of the country. The fisherfolk who rely on fish catch for their day-to-day livelihood, suffer from smaller catches, and therefore lower incomes. The Bureau of Fishers of Aquatic Resources show that at least 40 percent of the Filipino fisherfolk live below the poverty line.

Heavy Reliance on Marine Wildlife
The Philippines is identified as one of the 17 mega biodiversity countries, housing about two thirds of the earth’s biodiversity and 70 to 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. Endemism, an ecological state in which a species is unique to a certain geographic location, in the Philippines is very high. There is about 3,214 species of fish in the Philippines, 121 of which are endemic and of which 76 are threatened. It is located in the ‘Coral Triangle’ with neighboring countries Indonesia and the Philippines, where a large number of corals is located.
According to the National Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity, the main challenge in reducing the loss in biodiversity of the Philippines is the lack of nationally agreed baselines, targets and indicators.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that the Philippines is ranked as one of the major first producing countries in the world. Aquaculture in the country contributes 25.4 (790,000 tons) percent of the total world production. The country is the third largest producer of farmed seaweed, accounting to 1.8 million tons in 2012. In 2010, 1.5 million Filipinos were employed in the fisheries and aquaculture industry of the Philippines, estimated at about 1.8 percent of the country’s total GDP. In addition to the huge contributions of fisheries and aquaculture to the national economy, fish consumed locally has amounted to 32.7 kg/person in 2011.

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