Two days ago, The Philippine Star carried a news “DA bans trade of brown algae and sea grass in the wild”, which we involved in conservation campaign of protecting and preserving the country’s resources, find such a warning quite delayed! For, indeed, gathering of wild seaweeds has been going on for some time already. The DA pronouncement is very incomplete as it fails to specific the particular species of ‘brown algae and sea grass’, considering that Philippine waters host many species of the above 2 marine plant groups’! The concerned government offices could have just called up any of the Filipino biologists to help them identify which group/species of the marine plants are the subjects of their pronouncement! However, myself of the few Filipino Phycologists (researchers on marine algae/seaweeds), I would believe that both DA and BFAR refer to the larger/macro-brown algae as those classified under Genus Sargassum. This brown seaweeds are the most dominant marine vegetation in the Philippines’ rocky seacoasts from the southern tip of Tawi-Tawi and up to the northern end of Batanes Provinces, including its northernmost island of Y’Ami. Recently, an informant e-mailed me an alarming information that gathering of Sargassum in the Provinces of Leyte and Samar has reached a point when the plants are just grabbed and pulled from its rocky substratum. The illegal brown seaweed gatherers easily gets workers from fisherfolks displaced by Typhoon Yolanda, who accept the job out of necessity, their means of livelihood having come to a halt after the destruction of their fishing boats, nets and other fishing paraphernalia. But what appears puzzling is the question, we in marine water-based research are asking: WHO/WHICH OFFICE HAS ISSUED THE PERMIT TO GATHER SEAWEEDS AND SEA GRASSES IN THE PHILIPPINES? And, WHO CAN STOP AND PUT TO JAIL THESE OFFENDERS FOR DESTROYING THE COUNTRY’S MARINE ECOSYSTEM? By mandate, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), an agency under the Department of Agriculture, is supposed to implement the Philippines Fisheries Law and other such laws meant to protect the country’s marine resources, seaweeds, sea grasses, corals, fish. Shell-fish, and mangrove vegetation. However, we are all aware of the limitations of BFAR in monitoring activities taking place in the country’s coastal lines, dubbed much longer than continental USA!
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