Report on the Consultation forum in support of the Philippines eventual implementation of CITES for seahorses and other aquatic species
- The goal of the forum was to increase national capacity for eventual implementation of CITES for Appendix II listed aquatic species under the newly revised fisheries law in the Philippines (RA No. 8550 as amended by RA No. 10654), specifically Section 102b, using seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) as the case study.
- The Philippines Fisheries Code was revised to address IUU fishing in the Philippines, and also strengthen protection of endangered marine species and critical conservation areas, based on the precautionary principle and an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.
- It is not immediately clear from the way the Section 102b is written whether the new law is in line with, or opposite, CITES in terms of its burden of proof – but forum discussions made it clear that BFAR is interpreting it as per CITES obligations, such that fisheries and trades of Appendix II and III listed species will only be re-opened when scientific assessments prove that these activities can be done sustainably.
- A Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) or BFAR Administrative Circular (BAC) for seahorses is a precursor to the reopening of legal take and trade under the Amended Fisheries Code Section 102b, and should set the terms for take and trade to ensure it remains sustainable.
- The first step toward an FAO/BAC for seahorses and other CITES Appendix II listed aquatic species is the convening of the Philippines Aquatic Red List Committee (PARLC). The PARLC output will be a National Aquatic Wildlife Red List, which in turn will be used as the basis for formulating regulations (FAOs/BACs) for specific species.
- The PARLC will feed its technical assessments into the National Aquatic Wildlife Management Committee (NAWMC), which will support BFAR to establish legislation on the collection and trade of aquatic wildlife on the national Red List.
- BFAR’s goal for implementing the Amended Fisheries Code Sec 102b for seahorses is the end of 2018; this is when they aim to have legislation in place that should allow for re-opening of seahorses fisheries and trades in a sustainable manner.
- The framework for making Non-Detriment Findings for seahorses guided participants to evaluate the pressures facing seahorse in the Philippines, the utility of existing management measures for addressing those pressures, and to identify gaps in both knowledge and management.
- Much of the information we have on seahorse exploitation and trade in the Philippines is more than a decade old (the last trade surveys were carried out in the early 2000s, for example). All participants called for new evaluations, as a matter of urgency.
- In evaluating existing management it became clear there are a lot of national laws in place that could benefit seahorses in the Philippines. However, enforcement needs to be substantially improved, and there is a dearth of monitoring to evaluate management effectiveness for seahorses.
- The groups also identified gaps in management – including a lack of protection of seagrass beds and mangrove forests, and a lack of seahorse-specific management measures.
- The NDF assessments were used to identify potential adaptive management and monitoring activities for seahorses in the Philippines, which were consolidated into an action plan for moving toward defensible NDFs for seahorses in the Philippines (Annex IV).
- The forum also served to connect national CITES Authorities, other government agencies, industry (fishers and traders) and national technical experts.
Foster, S.J. and C.M. Apale. 2016. Report on the consultation forum in support of the Philippines eventual implementation of CITES for seahorses and other aquatic species. March 1-3, 2016. St. Mark Hotel, Queens Road, Redemptorist Plaza, Camputhaw, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu.