DENR seeks highest protection for Christmas frigatebird

The Philippines, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), proposes the inclusion of Christmas frigatebird on Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, or simply CMS.

Christmas frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) is a large, mostly black seabird with a glossy green sheen to feathers of the head and its back. It is considered the rarest endemic seabird on Christmas Island in Australia.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said it is high time for CMS party states to join hands in protecting the critically endangered bird, which is a regular visitor to the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan province.

“It is important for the Philippines and other parties to the CMS to maintain migratory sites as viable habitats, so that this species will continue to come back,” Cimatu said.

Aside from the Christmas frigatebird, the Philippines is also seeking greater protection for the White-spotted wedgefish (Rhychobatus australiae), Whale shark (Rhincodon typus), Yellow bunting (Emberiza sulphurata), and Black noddy (Anous minutus) subspecies worcesteri.

The draft resolutions were submitted by the Philippines for consideration by over 120 nations during the 12th Meeting of Conference of Parties to CMS happening in Manila from October 23 to 28.

Over 150 species of migratory birds annually visit the Philippines. Being part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, migratory birds in their southward migration stop in the rich coastal and marine, inland wetlands and forests to feed and refuel before taking on to their journey further south.

Meanwhile, Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Theresa Mundita Lim said the Christmas frigatebird is an “essential predator in the ecosystem as it feeds on both vertebrates and invertebrates in coastal areas.” ### 

PH wants greater protection for threatened migratory fish species

Aside from the whale shark or butanding, the Philippines is also pushing for greater protection for four other migratory species that are regularly found in the country, including the adorable White-spotted wedgefish.

In a draft resolution submitted to the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the Philippines proposed the inclusion of white-spotted wedgefish (Rhynchbatus australiae) in Appendix II of CMS.

Appendix II covers migratory species that have unfavorable conservation status and require international agreements for their conservation and management.

The proposed resolution was drafted by the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), with help from other stakeholders.

It will be presented for approval by over 120 nations during the 12th Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CMS to be held in Manila from October 23 to 28. The event marks the first time that one of the world’s largest wildlife conferences is held in Asia.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the resolution is “our way of showing Filipino hospitality to these migratory species.”

“We treat these animals the same way we treat our guests. We want to make sure they are protected in other countries the same way we protect them while they are here in our territory, thus we filed the draft resolution,” said the former Armed Forces chief.

According to BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim, the susceptibility of wedgefish to capture makes it eligible for endorsement to be included in Appendix II.

“Most commercial fisheries target the white-spotted wedgefish as a by-catch. Its flesh is also being consumed here in Asia, and is very expensive,” Lim said.

The white-spotted wedgefish is characterized as a marine species with large, elongated, greyish-colored body, two tall dorsal fins, and a large scythe-like tail that gives it a remarkable shark-like appearance.

It also has large black eyespots at the base of each pectoral fin, and distinctive black cross between the eyes, and its upper body is marked by rows of small white spots. The snout is also pointed and the mouth is small, with flattened, pavement-like teeth.

The CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention, is an international environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme that provides an expert legal framework in coordinating worldwide conservation measures for a wide range of endangered migratory animals – whether terrestrial, marine, or avian – and their habitats.

The Conference of Parties is the convention's main decision-making body, and meets every three years to adopt policies and laws and propose new species under the framework.

The one the Philippines is hosting is the convention’s 12th Conference of Parties or COP12, which has the official theme: “Their Future is Our Future — Sustainable Development for Wildlife and People.”

The Philippines is also pushing for the inclusion of the Whale shark or butanding in Appendix I, while maintaining its status in Appendix II. ### 

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