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18 September 2011 Hon. Loren Legarda Senator Republic of the Philippines RE: Revision of Senate Bill 2616 Dear Hon. Legarda: The last 12 months have seen a number of laws, regulations and industry actions to regulate or end shark fishing and/or finning. There are already bans on shark fin sales in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and parts of Canada. The Bahamas and Honduras have prohibited shark fishing in the last two years. Last week, the California Senate also voted to ban the sale or possession of shark fins. Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission banned the killing of tiger sharks and three species of hammerhead sharks. The Philippines, known as the center of marine biodiversity on Earth, is falling behind. House Bill 174, or the Sharks and Rays Conservation Act of 2010, filed by Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been pending in Congress since July 2010. Similarly, Senate Bill 2616, which you proposed, has also been pending since it was filed in December 2010.
Shark slaughter in Northern Philippines
Your Honor, it is imperative that we revisit and lobby for SB 2616 to protect these species. First and foremost, sharks and rays are extremely valuable in Philippine ecotourism. A study conducted by Simon Oliver et al. of the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Group shows that scuba divers visiting and observing live thresher sharks in Malapascua, Cebu pay amounts that collectively draw in over ₱6,000,000 per annum. The consistent early morning presence of the pelagic thresher sharks on the Shoal drives the local dive and tourism industries, fuelling about 80% of the regional economy. The value of a slaughtered thresher shark is only ₱8,125. However, the lack of policies makes killing such species acceptable. Just last month, August 12, 2011, I received a report from a dive club that intercepted a boat that had come from a shark fishing expedition. The boat had a caudal fin of a thresher shark, among others. All sharks were caught between Bohol and Camiguin
The Law of Nature is the international name of The Batas Kalikasan Foundation, a duly registered non-profit organization to advance Environmental Law education, compliance and enforcement (SEC Reg. No. A200209645, June 14, 2002).
waters. The thresher shark was estimated to be eleven (11) feet in length and eighty (80) kilograms in weight. Let us look at the case of whale sharks, the only shark species protected by a national law.1 In 2002, Donsol only had 867 tourists. When the fisherfolk who used to kill these gentle giants became tour guides and whale shark watchers, the number increased to over 7, 000. In just a few years, whale shark tourism created over 300 jobs and contributed more than US$620,000 to our economy. The consumption of shark and ray products such as sharkʼs fin soup and shark liver oil may also have negative impacts on our health. Studies show that the top predators of the have among the highest levels of toxic mercury found in fish. Organizations all over the world, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, recognize mercury to be a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause male sterility and extensive damage to the nervous system and fetuses. These organizations have warned against eating shark meat, especially pregnant women, women who plan to become pregnant, and children.
Shark finning in Southern Philippines
In addition to its potential health hazards, the high consumption of shark and ray products has alarming implications to the environment. The 2006 Red List of shark species published by the World Conservation Union listed 110 species of sharks and rays that are either critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable, while a further 96 are facing some level of threat. As you mentioned in proposed SBʼs Explanatory Note, most of these species grow slowly, mature late, and do not reproduce often, which means that their populations are particularly vulnerable to overfishing and recover slowly, if at all. Approximately 70-100 million sharks are killed annually to meet the demand of the international shark trade, which increases by more than 5% a year. As the top predators of the sea, sharks and rays play an important role in regulating all the species in the marine ecosystem. The loss of our top predators can cause the entire marine ecosystem and biodiversity to collapse. In this light, we have drafted a proposed revision of SB 2616 for your review and consideration. This was written with much assistance from various stakeholders, such marine biologists and veterinarians, scuba divers and environmental law enforcers. We at the Law of Nature Foundation and the environmental movement look forward to closely and actively working with you for the passing of this Act. We are ready to help spark political will to promote compliance and enforcement. We can also organize a group of volunteers and mobilize our friends in media for information dissemination.
Fisheries Administrative Order No. 193, 1998
Your Honor, while our beautiful archipelago is the center of marine biodiversity, it is also the center of marine adversity. The protection of our rich marine resources is not just of national concern, but international concern because of its global significance. My generation and the generations yet unborn have a right to inherit a country that has sustained your generation. It must continue to do so.
Mangled leopard whipray in Southern Philippines
Thank you in anticipation of your kind and expeditious action on the matter.2 We earnestly look forward to your reply as we trust that this letter finds you in good health and spirits.
Anna R. Oposa Officer-in-Charge Environmental Policy and Law Compliance firstname.lastname@example.org +63917-851-0209
2 Under the recently-enacted Republic Act 9485, also known as the Anti-Red Tape Law, public officials are given 10 days within which to reply and report on the actions taken. Please see also Republic Act 6713, Republic Act 3019, and other pertinent laws on Public Accountability.
FIFTEENTH CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES ___ Regular Session SENATE S.B. No. ____ Introduced by Senator Loren Legarda AN ACT BANNING THE CATCHING, SALE, PURCHASE, POSSESSION AND TRADE OF ALL SHARKS AND RAYS, THEIR DERIVATIVES AND BY-PRODUCTS IN THE COUNTRY Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in the Philippines in Congress assembled: SECTION 1. Prohibition. – It shall be unlawful for any person or corporation to wound, kill, catch, sell, purchase, cause to be caught, and trade sharks and rays, their derivatives and by-products in the Philippines. It shall also be unlawful to wound or kill sharks and rays in the course of catching other species of fish. Sharks and rays accidentally included in the catch shall be immediately released unharmed in the sea.
(a) Dumping of waste products detrimental, to these species, whether intentional or otherwise, directly or indirectly, shall also be prohibited.
SECTION 2. Lead Agency. – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) shall be the lead agency for the implementation this Act. The BFAR shall spearhead the development of a national shark and ray rescue, recovery and release plan for stranding, bycatch reports and confiscation of carcass or by-products sharks and rays. The BFAR shall also spearhead the development of an updated Philippines sharks and rays database for the purpose of management and protection under the BFAR National Stock Assessment Program, and in coordination with BFAR Regional Field Offices (BFAR-RFO), the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Provincial Veterinary Offices (PVO) and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Offices (PENRO). The Provincial Attorney’s Office of each Local Government Unit (LGU) shall ensure the swift and timely prosecution of violators and spearhead in the development of protocols for evidence collection and preservation as guide to the police. The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Philippine Council for Sports and Scuba Diving (PCSSD) under the DOT shall also coordinate with the BFAR and LGUs to identify habitats and feeding grounds of sharks and rays and declare the same as protected tourism estates. Upon the identification of these areas, they shall be promoted for restorative ecotourism. To eliminate the demand that results in the killing of sharks and rays, selling and serving of shark and ray derivatives and by-products and menus with reference to shark and ray derivatives and by-products shall be prohibited. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shall prepare a phase out plan for serving shark’s fin soup and menus with shark and ray derivatives and by-products in restaurants.
SECTION 3. Information and Education. – The BFAR, DOT, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), LGUs, environmental non-government organizations (e.g., The Law of Nature Foundation, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines), private organizations (e.g., Manila Ocean Park) and academic institutions (e.g., UP Marine Science Institute, Silliman University Marine Laboratory) shall undertake a nationwide information and education campaign to make Filipinos understand the value of sharks and rays in the marine ecosystem and tourism. Each BFAR-RFO, PVO and PENRO must be familiar with the species of sharks found and traded in their respective LGUs. The Provincial Police Office must ensure that all police stations in the Province have a copy of this Act posted in their bulletin boards and that this Act is disseminated and discussed within the police stations, as well as meetings conducted in Barangays. The League of Municipalities and League of Cities of the Philippines shall ensure that all members implement this Act in their respective territories and ensure that all Barangay leaders, veterinarians, agriculturists and Bantay Dagat members are fully aware of this Act. SECTION 4. Assistance and Regular Reporting. – The BFAR and the other agencies herein named shall seek the assistance of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies and local government units for the implementation of this law. The BFAR shall report to the Office of the President every quarter on the progress of this initiative. SECTION 5. Penal Provisions. – Whoever violates this Act or any rules and regulations issued by the BFAR pursuant to this Act and is found guilty by a competent court shall be imprisoned for not less than one (1) year but not more than twelve (12) years and fined with the amount of Five thousand pesos (P5,00.00) per cubic centimeter of shark or ray carcass or meat, or body mass if alive, and cause or shoulder all costs related to live shark or ray release as determined by the nearest BFAR office. Persons or corporations in possession of shark or ray derivatives and/or by-products shall pay the fine of Five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) per individual item and/or if liquid such as soup or oil, per 16 oz. as assessed by the nearest BFAR office; Provided, That if the area of species requires rehabilitation or restoration as determined by the court, the offender shall also be required to restore or compensate for the restoration to the damage; Provided, further, That the court shall order the forfeiture in favor of the Government of all shark and ray products collected or removed including all equipment, devices and firearms used in connection therewith by the offender. If the offender is an association of the corporation, the president or manager shall be directly responsible for the act of his employees and labors. SECTION 10. Separability. – Any portion or provision of this Law that may be declared unconstitutional shall not have the effect of nullifying its other portions or provisions, as long as such remaining portions can still be given effect. SECTION 11. Repeal. – All laws, executive orders, rules and regulations and other issuances or parts thereof, which are inconsistent with this law, are hereby revoked, amended, or modified accordingly.