Sharks, rays, and chimaeras, referred to collectively as sharks, are valuable to our seas and the world’s oceans, represented with over 1,000 shark species worldwide. Approximately 200 of these are found in the Philippines. The country has earned a unique position globally in shark biodiversity, ranking fourth after Australia, Indonesia, and Japan, and second in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.
Protecting sharks in the Philippines is in our best interest. Their presence is beneficial to both our economy and ecosystems. Fisheries on sharks have been historically practiced in the Philippines, with municipal dominating over commercial fisheries. Shark-based tourism contributes to the local economy, as well, such as Donsol in Sorsogon and Malapascua Island in Cebu. Tourism supports networks and job opportunities for the locals and businesses. Ecological benefits of sharks include keeping coral reefs and seagrass beds healthy, fish populations robust, and nutrient cycling in the seas functioning. Healthy shark populations mean healthy seas.
Despite their value, sharks in the Philippines remain vulnerable to a wide range of threats, mostly due to exploitation, such as directed fisheries, accidental fishery or bycatch, marine debris, habitat destruction, weak law enforcement, and unregulated tourism. A shark’s inherent biological characteristic of having low reproductive potential compared to other fishes means that it need extra conservation attention not given to other species.
However, the listing of several shark species in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in August 2019 and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in October 2017 only proves the urgent need for the Philippines to conserve our dwindling shark populations. To date, only 25 species of sharks are protected in the Philippines.
Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Save Philippine Seas, Greenpeace Philippines, and several other organizations that are members of the Save Sharks Network Philippines (SSNP) launched the Pating, Saan ka Pararating?: the 2020 Conservation Roadmap for Sharks and Rays in the Philippines in November 2017. The 2020 Roadmap tackles the complex issues surrounding shark conservation but more importantly, serves as a guide to align efforts of all stakeholders toward a common vision of conserving sharks and rays in the Philippines through these conservation pillars: research, communication, community engagement, and governance. The 2020 Roadmap is designed for use by different agencies, organizations, and individuals to execute their commitments on their own or through concerted efforts.
The “An Act Regulating the Catching, Sale, Purchase, Possession, Transportation, Importation, and Exportation of All Sharks, Rays, and Chimaeras and any Part Thereof in the Country,” also known as the Philippine Shark Conservation Bill was introduced by Sen. Risa Hontiveros last July 4 (Senate Bill 1863) and again by Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on July 9 (House Bill 7912) during the second regular session of the 17th Congress of the Philippines.
SB 1863 had its first reading on July 25 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food (primary), and the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (secondary).
HB 8926, substituting HB 7912, was approved during its third and final reading on February 4 2019, and has been transmitted to the Senate on February 6 2019.
Unfortunately 17th Congress has already ended, once again requiring both bills to be filed in both Senate and House of Representatives.
In July 2019, Sen. Cynthia Villar filed the same bill (Senate 335) and Sen. Hontiveros refiled it (Senate Bill 360) at the beginning of the 18th Congress. The counterpart bills in the House of Representatives were filed by Rep. Alfred Vargas (House Bill 3614) and Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr. (House Bill 1684).
With your help, SSNP is urging politicians to pass the Philippine Shark Conservation Bill that would allow all shark populations in the Philippines to thrive. This law will support the implementation of shark programs and other conservation management interventions at a national scale.
In order to pass this law, the politicians need to hear it from you.
Here’s how you can help:
1. Sign this petition and share it with your networks!
2. Share our posts on social media sites and include #ConservePHSharks to increase awareness!
3. Attend/volunteer/get involved in shark projects and research.
4. Do not consume or purchase any product with sharks, rays, and their by-products and derivatives.
5. Report sightings of sharks and ray species in wet markets, dive sites, shops, or restaurants to SSNP.
Access SBN 335 here: https://www.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=18&q=SBN-335
Access SBN 360 here:
Access HBN 1684 here: http://www.congress.gov.ph/legisdocs/basic_18/HB01684.pdf
Access HBN 3614 here: http://www.congress.gov.ph/legisdocs/basic_18/HB03614.pdf
You can download the online version of the 2020 Roadmap on bit.ly/SSNP2020Roadmap and check out the 2020 Roadmap posters on bit.ly/SSNP2020RoadmapPosters