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Local Autonomy: A Key to Protection of the Ecosystem

Kim Peterson

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5-28-18

Apo Island's Protected Landscape and Seascape

 

When Europeans first visited the east Atlantic seaboard, the hyperabundance of cod would not go unnoticed. In 1602, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold named the peninsula, where the Nauset and Wampanoag people lived, Cape Cod after its fish stocks.

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Georges Bank of Massachusetts and Nova Scotia were immensely rich fishing grounds that were plundered by the early 1990s. Subsequently, a moratorium was imposed on the fisheries in hopes of recovery.1

In the case of the Grand Banks, one analysis laid the blame squarely on technology, draggers, factory trawlers and “the expansionary dynamics of capitalism [that] caused Canadian vessels to scour the seas for ever increasing profit…”2 “[O]verfishing, primarily driven by the capitalist ethic, was one of the major causes of the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod fishery.”3,4

In his book, The Plundered Seas, Michael Berrill called the Grand Banks and Georges Bank maybe the saddest story of overfishing.5 Berrill recognized the problem of protecting straddling stocks, as projections of the Grand Banks were outside Canada’s EEZ; moreover, Spain and the EU ignored the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization quotas.6

Worldwide, Berrill pointed to a peak in captured fish stocks in 1989, that signaled a maximum sustainable global catch having been approached.7 The FAO concurred, finding that “unregulated fisheries were often leading to resource depletion.”8 Given that the global fisheries are considered important for the food security and nutritional needs of the world’s population9 this should be a cause for concern.

Berrill’s solution was the management of Large Marine Ecosystems.10

There is much evidence for the efficacy of marine reserves and site management. In one study, for example, crab fishery data from 1996 to 2013 indicated that the decrease in catches after closure to trawling and gillnetting was significantly greater outside than inside closure zones.11

In the face of uncertainty, adherence to the precautionary principle seems prudent.12 Prudent and logical, but not easy.

“Fishers, like most other people, don’t like to be managed at all,” Berrill noted.13 Consequently, rules to protect the environment and its ecosystems are faced with difficulties posed by cheating, lack of enforcement, and insufficient funding.14

To overcome this these challenges, Berrill advocated that the marine reserves for protecting fish stocks should be managed by local communities.15

Community management of the Apo Island marine sanctuary

Apo Island seen from Negros

Among the over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, lies Apo Island, a diminutive tropical island, nestled at the bottom of Cebu and southeast from nearby Negros. A sign on Apo Island’s main beach informs that the island is 72 hectares of protected landscape and 619 hectares of protected seascape.

The seascape includes 106 hectares of coral reef. The reserve lies on the south-eastern side of Apo Island and was established in 1982 as a no-take area. It consists of 22.5 hectares along a 0.45 km stretch of the island that represents about 10% of the coral reef. Fishing is the major income-generating activity in the area.

The island is distinctive. There are no roads or motorized vehicles. You get around by walking. Electricity is available only from 6 PM to 10 PM each day. All the lodgings are simple backpacker style. To some this island is paradise.