Dr. Annadel Cabanban, Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) Specialist of the Coral Triangle Initiative-Southeast Asia project, identified strategies on how college students can protect the Coral Triangle during her sharing in a symposium organized by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Zoological Society on 20 March 2017.
More than a hundred undergraduate students from various colleges attended the symposium at Crop Protection Cluster Lecture Hall. Fellow resource persons Dr. Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Director of the UPLB Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Arnel Yaptinchay, Director of the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP), also shared strategies in biodiversity conservation efforts, identified research gaps, and discussed their organizations’ experiences.
Biodiversity conservation through a sustainable fisheries approach
Dr. Cabanban has more than 20 years of experience on marine biodiversity and fisheries management in Southeast Asia and Africa. As fisheries expert of CTI-Southeast Asia, she designs and implements activities for the management of marine ecosystems in the Coral Triangle. Her work helps build a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the CT3 region (Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines) and promote Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM). EAFM is a strategy in fisheries management that looks at the bigger picture. In managing fish stock, for instance, one considers its physical environment, the species that interact with it, and human actions that impact it.
“Through EAFM, we can strike a balance between economic growth, social well-being, and species protection,” Dr Cabanban said in her talk.
She also discussed the importance of marine biodiversity in the Coral Triangle. Over 130 million people in the Coral Triangle benefit from marine biodiversity through ecosystem services. These come in the form of cultural services (e.g., ecotourism), supporting services (e.g., nutrient cycling), regulating services (e.g., climate regulation), and provisioning services (food, air, and water).
“Biodiversity is important because of the many benefits and services it provides, so we need to protect this and ensure that it will be cared for to our generation and the next generation to come.” she said.
Dr. Cabanban challenged the students to be changemakers by creating new knowledge through research and joining environmental groups and activities. Young people can share knowledge on environment and get involved in activities so they can contribute in conserving the Coral Triangle.
Uncovering ‘functionally extinct’ species
Dr. Gonzales discussed the most endangered wildlife in the Philippines. He briefed the audience on the six main levels of threat by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These labels are: extinct, extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, and near threatened. He centered his talk more on critically endangered species.
Dr. Gonzales also shared some case studies of functionally extinct species, species which have too few breeding pairs to ensure survival.
“There’s still a lot of hope for functionally extinct species,” Dr. Gonzalez shared. “The Cebu flowerpecker was considered extinct in 1990s, but someone went up the mountains and found them. No one just bothered to look.”
He urged biology students to take on survey research to assess the state of functionally extinct species. By doing this, they can fill in research gaps that can aid in policy. Research findings can help decision makers and development institutions plan, maintain, and conduct conservation programs and public awareness activities.
Social media for marine animal protection
Dr. Arnel Yaptinchay is founder and Director of MWWP, a non-profit organization that works to protect marine wildlife. He shared his experience using social media to educate on biodiversity issues and document wildlife trade cases.
MWWP’s Facebook page is a knowledge source on marine wildlife protection. The site shares information that can help readers appreciate marine fauna better and its connectedness to different species in the planet. Netizens can report cases of illegal wildlife trade in their area on the page. MWWP also partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme in producing response and rescue manual series for sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins, and other marine animals.
Dr. Yaptinchay’s initiative earned him the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ POGI (Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade) award. The award recognizes his expertise on marine wildlife and use of documentation tools like social media to aid law enforcement.
He shared that one thing citizens can do is being conscious of their consumption.
“We need to fish sustainably. Know where your seafood is coming from and ensure that they are caught responsibly and sustainably,” he said.
He also urged the audience to tap modern technology. Through smartphones, they can also make waves of change. They can report wildlife trade, share information on wildlife protection, and link citizens to proper authorities.
Through the annual symposium, students and researchers adopted new strategies and lessons that will conserve biodiversity for years to come.
Written by Christian Rieza with inputs from Dr. Annadel Cabanban, Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries Management Specialist of the Coral Triangle Initiative – Southeast Asia (RETA 7813). All photos credited to the UPLB Zoological Society.