Diving with dynamite
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Gordon Kricke (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2018 - 12:00am

I was diving on a weekend in the beautiful waters of Malapascua when I heard a loud explosion. At first I thought this must be an emergency, maybe a blasted valve of the tanks of one of my fellow divers. But then I saw our dive-master seemingly unperturbed, he was apparently already used to this kind of noise. That was both reassuring – no emergency – but also quite unsettling because it was clear then that it came from dynamite fishing. A few more explosions followed and the wonderful dive ended on a somewhat sad note. I couldn’t help wondering how the situation must be in more remote places when dynamite fishing happens even in the sea close to this tourist hotspot.

Dynamite fishing and other destructive practices, like cyanide fishing and bottom trawling, is the equivalent of killing the goose that lays golden eggs or of cutting a Mango tree just to get some fruits. The explosions indiscriminately kill large numbers of fish and other marine organisms in the vicinity and destroy the coral reefs. Unsustainable fishing has been identified as the most pervasive of all local threats to coral reefs. Over 25 percent of ocean marine life lives on coral reefs and roughly 850 million people worldwide directly benefit from them – the loss of coral reefs could be catastrophic. The German philosopher and Indologist Heinrich Zimmer was certainly right when he wrote “limitless and immortal, the waters are the beginning and end of all things on earth.”

The number of sharks has been reduced massively all over the world due to the cruel trade in shark fins just to satisfy the craving of reckless consumers in certain countries. If this continues, an estimated 25 percent of shark species could become extinct in the next 10 years. Sea-horses, giant clams and sea cucumbers have already disappeared from many reefs for the same reason. The tuna and mackerel populations have seen a nearly 75 percent decline and Bluefin tuna in the Pacific are on the brink of extinction.

The sheer scale of the destruction is terrifying. According to the last “Living Planet Index” report the number of vertebrate animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020. The collapse of wildlife is part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.

The Philippines are still an important global hotspot for biodiversity, both on land and under water. The natural beauty of the country is something many Filipinos are very proud of - and with good reason. However, this treasure is under a lot of pressure from many sources. To concentrate forces to protect nature and the remaining biodiversity is certainly important. During my visits to many of the beautiful provinces in the Philippines it was often one of the most inspiring experiences for me to meet truly dedicated and committed representatives of the local authorities or members of NGOs who are trying to protect that heritage. Incidentally, before I spent the weekend in Malapascua, I visited a project in Bogo Bay in Northern Cebu supported by Germany to protect the marine environment.

Germany is in fact since many years a close partner of the Philippines in the fight against climate change and in the protection of biodiversity. These are focal areas of our official cooperation with the Philippines. One regional project financed by Germany for example supports the efforts to protect the unique Sulu-Sulawesi marine ecoregion in the Coral Triangle. The European Union also has an important regional program for the protection of biodiversity.

The protection of marine resources must be a priority for everyone. In the end we shouldn’t forget: If we don’t learn to treat the oceans and the whole environment with more care and respect it might well be humanity that could become extinct someday.

* * *

(Gordon Kricke is the Ambassador of Germany.)

CORAL REEFS DIVING DYNAMITE FISHING MARINE LIFE
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