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Groups call for the conservation of over 200 shark species in the Philippines

After the victorious inclusion and uplisting of several shark species in the Appendices of the 12th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species last 23-28 October 2017 in Manila, shark conservation continues to gain momentum in the Philippines.

On November 13-14, 2017, Save Sharks Network Philippines (SSNP) launched Pating, Saan ka Pararating?, the 2020 Conservation Roadmap for Sharks and Rays in the Philippines (2020 Roadmap) in Pasay City, Metro Manila. Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Save Philippine Seas, and Greenpeace Southeast Asia leads the current campaign of SSNP.

The Philippines is one of the countries that has a high concentration of shark species. It is 4th in global shark biodiversity and 2nd in Southeast Asia. However, shark species in Philippine waters are in peril and are vulnerable to a wide range of threats -- many are caused by humans.

A roadmap for conservation and protection of sharks was one of the key recommendations of the 2nd Shark Summit held in Dumaguete City in November 2016. The roadmap is intended to tackle complex issues and serve as a guide to align efforts toward a common vision of conserving sharks and rays in the country. It was then developed in February 2017 by an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder group of over 40 people. The 2020 Roadmap is now ready for distribution and circulation.

“Due to the life history of most sharks, characterized by slow reproduction, they do not do well with excessive mortalities, which would cause a decline to their populations,” said Dr. AA Yaptinchay, Director and Co-Founder of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines. “Non-natural causes of deaths are considered threats, and are mostly direct effects of human activities such as directed and non-directed fisheries, destruction of habitats,overfishing, unregulated tourism, lack of political will, and poor enforcement of laws.

“These are exacerbated by global problems, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and lack of awareness. This has caused a decline in populations of some shark species. Much conservation attention is needed to reverse this decline. The roadmap will ensure that our shark resources are conserved, protected, and/or utilized sustainably,” he added.

Through the 2020 Roadmap, SSNP’s campaign can propel shark conservation forward by focusing on concerted efforts in different areas.

“The 2020 Roadmap was designed for different agencies, organizations, and individuals to have space for their own commitments, either on their own or together. The pillars are broad, but inclusive: Research, Communications, Community Engagement, and Governance. Through these, we are charting a future where we can find the balance between protection and utilization,” Anna Oposa, Executive Director of Save Philippine Seas stated.

Through the roadmap, SSNP is also urging politicians and lawmakers to pass a comprehensive law on the conservation of sharks, rays, and chimaeras in the Philippines. This would fill in the gaps in previous legislation, better protecting over 200 shark species in the country. It will support the implementation of shark programs and interventions in a national scale.

“Sharks and rays swimming in Philippine waters is not just environmentally beneficial, but economically as well,” Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, said. “It would be a shame for our country to not do anything about conserving these important species as we are in a unique position, globally, when it comes to shark species biodiversity. The Philippines should operationalize its call to the global community to protect key sharks species by legislating a comprehensive law to protect and conserve all shark species in the country.

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