What will it take to save underwater life forms and the millions who rely on them to survive? Five Filipino experts working in marine-related fields in different parts of the world, to include Q-quatics Board Member and Science Director, Deng Palomares, enlightened CNN Philippines Life about what the government can do to further marine conservation advocacy in the country. Palomares is a fierce advocate of open access to information, a basic human right which is completely absent in the environment she grew up in during the ‘Martial Law’ days of the Marcos regime. Consistent with her belief in the liberating power of freely accessed information like FishBase and The SeaLifeBase Project, Palomares pointed out the need for tighter labeling regulations in fish markets to help salvage Philippine seas. “I have not seen fish sold in the market labeled properly, for example, if they were caught sustainably,” Palomares said. “There are no seafood advisory guides in the Philippines, not in markets nor in restaurants.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Torres of Marine Science Institute in UP Diliman suggested the establishment of a department that centralizes functions related to maritime affairs. According to Torres, “it would be nice to see a central agency that would oversee the country’s oceanic affairs, as well as the conservation and management of our marine resources.”
Erina Molina, a young scientist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology in UP Diliman expects the government to do much more for the seas than merely banning single-use plastics. “Aside from government officials imposing plastic bans and regulations, the government can also fund research needed to effectively plan out what sustainable materials to use, and how materials can be recycled and reused at the end of a product’s lifetime.”
Andrian Gajigan of the School of Ocean, Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa is a molecular biologist and oceanographer who also acknowledges the limits of conscious consumption as a means to salvage the seas. He sees the need to control big corporations and big nations in terms of their wastes and carbon emissions. Gajigan envisions a state-sponsored project where citizens are educated on marine science which he says will allow Filipinos to “witness both the beauty of our underwater ecosystems and the extent of deterioration it is now subject to”.
Deborah Tangunan, a Micropaleontologist at the University of Bremen, Department of Geosciences studying fossil remains of microscopic marine algae. Tangunan studies these fossils to find indications of climate change throughout the history of the earth, before man came to be.
“It is important to look at the patterns of their past behaviors, their abundances and species distribution, how their shapes or sizes changed with colder or warmer conditions,” Tangunan said. For this allows better understanding of the present and even future climate scenarios.