Cebu News

‘Parasite’ tag receives flak

Michael Vencynth H. Braga, Staff Member - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Dumanjug, Cebu Mayor Nelson Garcia is standing pat on his statement that Tañon Strait marine animals are “parasites” their population should be controlled by killing some of them, even when his suggestion has triggered outrage online and in social networking sites.

The article entitled “Town mayor calls them ‘parasites’: Kill dolphins, whales”, posted in the official website of The FREEMAN, quoted Garcia as saying that some dolphins, whales, and sharks should be killed because they caused the decline of fish catch.

The mayor even considered these marine species as competitors of humans because they consume more than a ton of fish a day.

He further believes that the population of these marine animals is increasing, contrary to reports that they are close to becoming extinct, “because nobody is catching them.”

Informed of netizens’ reactions to his statements, Garcia remained firm in his position that these marine animals should be “regulated”.

“If you catch a whale, then kill it…. What is more important, the whale or us?” he said, adding that he has been vocal about this since his town has experienced low supply of fish, resulting to fishes being sold at a high price there.

The mayor’s statement drew mostly angry reactions from readers, who either corrected him or expressed anger, or made comments that are inappropriate to be printed here.

Steven Rogers said “The fish are running out because of massive overfishing and destruction of reefs and mangroves, not because of whales, dolphins, and sharks. Dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, and ‘muro-ami’ don’t just kill the fish, they (also) destroy the resources that allow fish populations to regenerate.”

Isidro Hugalbot, on the other hand, said, “Totally shameful! Totally embarrassing! Totally stupid and totally idiotic pathetic statements!!!What is his basis (in saying) that dolphins, sharks and whales are populating out-of-control in the Philippines?!! Totally ignorant.”

“This only shows that even local government leaders are still uninformed… (on) the importance of animal protection and conservation. Please educate this mayor,” said Don Jeremiah Neri.

Wilfredo Garrido also posted in a link shared by The Philippine Star, “Nature has a balance, dolphins, whales, sharks, all have a role to play in keeping that balance. To say that they compete (with) …humans for food, and should be killed, is ignorant and dangerous. It is humans who have upset that balance, and if we reverse the argument, we should be decimated for competing with dolphins, starting with the mayor.”

“There are other factors why fishes are scarce.  (Y)es, one major factor is global warming. Some plants and planktons, which (are) food for the fish, die because of the changing temperatures… (of) the sea. The whale shark’s diet does not include fish but they eat micro algae, planktons, krill and shrimps. I think it will be best for us to study the importance of fish farming for future food security. Mayor could have done some research or maybe even approached BFAR or some scientists for them to give him a logical and scientific answer. Dolphins, sharks and whales are major players in our oceans’ ecosystem to maintain the balance of the sea and ultimately could affect the food chain,” Alex Viray, on the other hand, said.

“He is PARTLY correct. The ‘control’ is and should be natural. Remember the food cycle. If there are more feeders than food, feeders will leave or die. Those that die become food for decomposers and scavengers. If we interfere with this process, we deprive the bottom feeders of their food and disrupt the food cycle,” added MTrip Like.

As of press time last night, the article had 5, 622 Facebook shares, 183 tweets on Twitter, and 42 website comments. It also garnered 3,000 Facebook likes.

Cebuano environmentalist Gloria Ramos, on the other hand,  said she respects the mayor’s view as his words only shows that he is honest of his opinion.

She said some individuals are just not well-informed of the significance of the role of marine animals such as dolphins, whales and sharks.

“Obviously mayors also are not aware of the interconnectivity of our life support system with our livelihood, with our life,” she said, stressing the need for an active role in information dissemination.

“The journey ahead is quite long for people to really understand why it is important to protect nature, knowing that we could not exist without our life support system,” she further said.

Ramos is the country’s vice president of Oceana, an international marine conservation organization that was behind Tuesday’s summit where Garcia made known his sentiments.

“What he said is reflective of the anthropocentric kind of philosophy that governs the world that nature exists to serve humans, when we are here to protect them,” she said.

She cited sharks as an example that keeps the balance in the ecosystem.

“Sharks are also indicators if an ecosystem is healthy or not,” she said.

She said that these marine animals are also like humans that likewise know how to feel; humans, though, only regard themselves as the ones who matter.

“Who are we to ask why they exist when these are creations of nature, and we are just part of the entire web?” she said.

While Lemnuel Aragones, associate professor of the Institute of Environment Science and Meteorology of University of the Philippines –Diliman, regards the act of killing sharks, dolphins, and whales as “illegal.”

“That’s a very sad story, to blame them. I would never agree on culling of dolphins and whales,” he said.

“It is very wrong to claim that we should kill dolphins and whales and treat them as parasites, so there will be more fish for the people. It is very unfortunate for this context to happen,” he added.

As a scientist, Aragones lamented someone should speak for the dolphins and whales, as he considers that politicians would also “always be playing for their stakeholders.”

“We hardly know the abundance, the numbers of dolphins, or the population level of the various species (in the Tañon Strait); some of them may be already endangered,” he said.

Promoting the killing of marine animals to keep them from competing with humans in the consumption of smaller fishes, he said, is not going to help in the long run to solve the problem.

“It’s the ecosystem that we have abused. The ecosystem is showing signs of overfishing, overexploitation, degradation, it’s all about human activities like destructive fishing, wrong coastal development, pollution, these are all human-introduced impacts,” he said. — Jessa J. Agua and May B. Miasco/RHM (FREEMAN)











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