Experts on Wednesday called on the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to conduct a full inventory of fishponds in Manila Bay that can be used for the reversion and rehabilitation of mangroves, whose number has been declining for decades.
During the “Reverting Abandoned, Underdeveloped, Unutilized Fishponds into Mangroves” webinar, Wilfredo Yap, executive director of the Santeh Aquaculture Science and Technology Foundation, said “priority should be given to update mangrove and fishpond area statistics and harmonize terminologies,” as data currently used by the government was “not in harmony.”
“[The] BFAR should make [a] full inventory of fishponds and determine how many have been titled and how many are patently illegal,” he added.
According to Rene Rollon, director of University of the Philippines Institute of Environmental Science and Metereology, many mangroves around Manila Bay have been lost over the years.
As of 2015, only 1,256 hectares of mangroves remain, primarily because of their conversion into aquaculture ponds.
As a result of the conversion of these mangroves areas for industrial use, Rollon said people “are permanently disconnecting [them] to [their] function with the open sea forever.
This is something to seriously think about… if we are into protecting and reforming our mangrove coverage.”
He also said mangroves served as a “greenbelt” for storm surges, particularly for those living in coastal areas. Mangroves are a natural protection for communities vulnerable both to rising sea levels and intense weather events caused by climate change.
He added that mangroves are essential to maintaining water quality, explaining that their dense network of roots and surrounding vegetation help filter and trap sediments and other pollutants.
Jurgenne Primavera, chief scientific mangrove adviser at Zoological Society of London, said rehabilitating degraded areas of mangroves included seafront planting and reversion of abandoned ponds.
Mangroves, she added, also play an important role in ensuring food security, waste disposal, flood regulation, erosion control and promotion of forestry products, among others.
According to her, downgrading fish ponds need capital and investors to operate benefitting only aquafarmers, pond operators and aquaculture industries, whereas mangroves can be run solely municipal or small-scale fishermen and families, extending benefits among populations in coastal towns and cities.
“The money should all be for ponds reversion, pero (but) this is political will,” Primavera said, noting that the government should make mangrove rehabilitation a top priority.