MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) has prohibited the trade of brown algae and sea grass in the wild to preserve marine ecosystems.
Through Fisheries Administrative Order 250, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has banned the collection, gathering, sale and export of brown algae and sea grass to prevent lost of shelter and food base of marine organisms dependent on algae and seagrass beds for survival.
He said the high commercial value and global market demand for algae seaweeds has resulted to uncontrolled harvesting in the wild.
Seagrass and algae beds provide shelter and food to diverse species of juvenile and adult fish as well as crustaceans. In dense growth areas, seagrass and algae can form underwater forests that serve as nurseries for larger fish species.
“The mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and seaweed forests being parts of the marine ecosystems are important natural resources of the state, inter-dependent with each other, serve significant ecological functions where a balance in the over-all condition each must be maintained to ensure the survival of diverse fish and aquatic species,” Alcala said.
“It basically provides a life support system to most aquatic marine organisms,” he added.
Alcala noted that natural re-colonization and recovery of damaged seagrass and algae areas would take decades.
Fisheries director Asis Perez said violators of the ban are punishable with a maximum imprisonment of two to 10 years and a fine of P100,000 to P500,000.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), however, may still issue a special permit to collect, harvest and export seaweed and seagrass for scientific and educational purposes,.
“The BFAR director, through Agriculture Secretary Alcala, may grant research institutions limited gathering of seaweeds and seagrass to determine the ecological and socio-economic impact of the activity on the fisheries resources,” he said.