Environment officials will recommend to the city government a fishing ban or a fishing moratorium in Honda Bay to allow its coral communities to recover from bleaching which was recently reported to be widespread.
The City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO) said a fishing ban in Honda Bay is needed to encourage algae-eating fish species to thrive and help in the recovery of bleached coral reefs in the bay.
“So this may result in fishing ban in specific areas in Honda Bay to speed up the recovery of coral reefs,” City ENRO chief, Atty. Carlo Gomez told Palawan News.
Coral bleaching is a phenomenon linked to an increased temperature of the sea surface, causing heat-stressed corals turn white as they eject the microscopic algae zooxanthellae that give them nutrients and brilliant colors.
In 2016, the coral bleaching that hit Honda Bay affected most of its coral reefs, particularly in three different sites around Snake Island.
Last week, research team from the City ENRO and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) documented the increased coral bleaching in the bay.
“Sad to note the bleached coral colonies we tagged in Snake Island died, eventually due to rapid algae fouling on the reef structures,” Jim Padin, DENR ERDB’s supervising science research specialist, told Palawan News.
Glenda Cadigal, a marine biologist working with the Palawan Council for Sustainable (PCSD), said a bleached coral can still recover if the favorable environments are regained.
“But with continued disturbance from prolonged incidence of warm waters and deposition of water pollutants, bleached corals are more vulnerable to stresses, making the damage irreversible which leads to coral death,” Cadigal said.
Cadigal said that the herbivorous reef fish such as the parrotfish and rabbitfish, play a crucial role in coral reef ecosystems as they eat the algae that compete with corals.
But Padin noted that the coral cover, especially in Snake Island, needs more time for recovery.
“Presently, new coral recruits can be observed on some portions of the reef, but the coral cover remains to be not in good condition,” he added.
“A moratorium could be a good start to protect the reefs, but we hope this could be upgraded to declaration of marine reserve areas or protected areas,” Padin said.
Fishermen interviewed by Palawan News said they are opposed to a ban or a fishing moratorium as they raised concerns on its impact on their livelihood.
“If that pushes through, life will be even more difficult for us small-scale fishers. Where will we get our daily subsistence to feed our children?” Edwin Ordesta, a fisherman from Barangay Santa Lourdes, said.
“Sometimes, we spent the whole day in the bay only to come home with almost nothing, and at the end of the day we have stomachs to be fed,” he added.
Padin pointed out that a fishing moratorium will help sustain fishing communities in the long run.
“The fishing regulation may increase the resiliency of coral reefs to the impacts of climate change and ensure a more sustainable supply of marine stocks,” he said.
Gomez said they are finalizing their policy proposal prior to its submission to the City Council for legislative action.