Tañon Strait, a 161-kilometer strip which separates the islands of Cebu and Negros, is celebrating nearly two decades as a protected area.
It is host to 62 percent of the country's coral species, plus 14 species of whales and dolphins.
Declared as the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape by then president Fidel Ramos on May 27, 1998, the area provides seafood and jobs for 42 towns, cities and municipalities.
Sadly, the Strait was threatened by commercial fishers who illegally enter and fish – ignoring a ban on commercial fishing for both municipal waters and protected areas. The various law enforcement agencies have since conducted regular joint sea-borne operations to stop the plunder of marine resources in the area.
Figures released by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Region 7 showed increased fish landings since 2014.
Marine conservation non-profit groups Oceana Philippines and Rare Philippines are working hand-in-hand with the government plus local fisheries to end illegal commercial fishing in the Strait and to ensure effective conservation and sustainable fisheries management for this part of the Coral Triangle. Vessel monitoring measures are being pilot tested and local enforcers are being empowered.
The Bantay Dagat system began in the 1970s, augmenting government capacity to protect coasts.
“Stronger law enforcement is a necessary tool to deter illegal fishing. We commend the province of Cebu, under the leadership of Governor Hilario Davide III, for providing much-needed incentive system to strengthen the resolve of those who protect our seas by empowering our Bantay Dagat, the local guardians of our oceans,” Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos said.*PR/PNA
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