PH goes full blast on campaign to include 2 shark species in CMS appendices

The Philippines has gone all out with its campaign to give further protection to two shark species – whale shark and white-spotted wedgefish – at an international conference current ly being held in the country.

In a forum, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones presented the country’s proposal for the uplisting and listing of the whale shark and white-spotted wedgefish, respectively, in the appendices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, or simply CMS.

The forum, entitled “Leading Shark Conservation: Shark Species Proposals for CMS,” was part of the 12th Session of Conference of Parties to the CMS held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City from October 23 to 28. Over 1,000 delegates from over 120 nations are attending the meeting, dubbed as world's largest wildlife conference in 2017.

The Philippines has been vigorously pushing for the uplisting of the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), locally known as butanding, to Appendix I of the CMS.

Appendix I consists of migratory species that have been assessed as facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future. Signatory states are encouraged to protect these animals, conserve or restore the habitats in which they live, remove obstacles to migration and control other factors that might endanger them.

Under the country’s proposal, the whale shark’s inclusion in Appendix II shall remain pending its uplisting. Appendix II covers migratory species that have unfavorable conservation status and that require international agreements for their conservation and management.

In his presentation, Leones said the whale shark has been very important to the country’s culture and economy, which is no wonder its image is depicted at the back of the 100-peso bill.

“It was the first shark species that was nationally protected in the Philippines. This helped our whale shark watching industry grow,” Leones added.

The DENR official revealed that in 2016, the 1,000th whale shark had been identified in Philippine waters, making the country “the third largest known aggregation of whale sharks in the world and the biggest in Southeast Asia.”

Whale sharks, however, are under threat from fishing and tourism activities and pollution, as well as non-existent protection in countries which are not parties to the CMS.

“An Appendix I listing is expected to lead to an increased attention to legislative protection in range states, and heightened awareness to support conservation efforts on whale sharks,” Leones pointed out.

The country is proposing the inclusion in Appendix II of the white-spotted wedgefish, which has been classified as “vulnerable” in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN.

According to Leones, the wedgefish has been recently considered endangered because its local population has declined from 50 to 80 percent over the last 30 years.

The DENR official attributed the decline to overfishing or by-catch fisheries, especially since its fins are considered “extremely valuable in international trade,” being sold for as much as US$1,000 per kilogram.

The white-spotted wedgefish is a highly mobile species that has been recorded across the waters of Southeast Asia and Australia.

“This is the first time that the wedgefish is receiving the conservation attention it deserves,” said Leones.

“Without this listing, there is a risk of the population declining even further. We cannot let go of this opportunity,” he added. # 

Cimatu touts PH efforts to protect butanding

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has cited the country’s gains in protecting the whale shark or butanding (Rhincodon typus), calling the local conservation effort a significant model worth emulating.

On the sidelines of the 12th Session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Cimatu took pride in the steps taken by various local government units (LGUs) that play hosts to the so-called “gentle giant of the sea,” particularly the town of Donsol in Sorsogon province.

The CMS event, happening from October 23 to 28 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, brings together more than 1,000 delegates from over 120 countries to strengthen existing actions for the conservation of migratory species and to formulate new measures to ensure their continuing survival.

Cimatu said the country’s hosting of the CMS meeting, which has been dubbed as the world’s largest wildlife conference in 2017, serves as a “great opportunity” for the Philippines to showcase local efforts to protect migratory species, especially the butanding.

“Our intensified information campaign and partnerships with LGUs and local communities are obviously bearing fruit and the international community is beginning to recognize our efforts to protect the butanding,” Cimatu said.

Last weekend, the CMS under its Migratory Species Champion Program named the Philippines as one of the five “migratory species champions” in the world for its exemplary contribution in global effort to protect migratory animals, particularly the butanding.

Cimatu said the DENR has been working closely with the local government of Donsol, which earlier issued a resolution declaring Donsol Bay a whale shark sanctuary, to ensure continued protection of the area.

Aside from Donsol, butanding sightings have also been recorded in Tubbataha Reefs in Palawan and Oslob, Cebu.

Butanding has boosted tourism in Sorsogon and Cebu provinces, where tourists are given a chance to swim with the gentle giant.

To provide wider protection for the butanding, the Philippines — through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources — has filed before the CMS Secretariat a resolution seeking its uplisting to Appendix I of the CMS.

Appendix I consists of migratory species that have been assessed as facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.

The whale shark is currently listed under Appendix II of the CMS, which covers migratory species that have unfavorable conservation status and that require international agreements for their conservation and management.

Known as the largest known fish species in existence, the whale shark travels across national boundaries and moves from national economic zones into the high seas.

Its global migration routes include Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal and Tanzania.

According to Cimatu, international cooperation between the range states that the whale shark traverses is necessary to ensure its protection.

“The whale shark passes in between countries, so it is very important that we join the efforts of the international community and our neighboring countries in the ASEAN region to uphold their conservation and protection,” Cimatu said. # 

More Articles...