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Cyanide Fishing 0708

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 9 months ago

 Cyanide Fishing - A Devastating Method Illegally Used to Catch Fish in the Philippines

By Reinal Fortes

 


Description and Rationale  

 

Cyanide fishing is not a natural method of fishing used in the Philippines. It was not passed down from generation to generation as a traditional way of catching fish like most . Having been introduced in the 1960’s to supply the International Aquarium Trade, fishermen have embraced the new method and some still use it today to fish instead of the traditional net fishing. Cyanide stuns fish without killing them making it easier for fishermen to catch the fish unlike net fishing which is said to be more difficult and catches less fish.

 

Is there another method of fishing that is just as beneficial as cyanide fishing? Is cyanide fishing really that harmful to the environment? Why should one be bothered by the effects? Why do fishermen prefer cyanide fishing over the traditional net method? And why do fishermen risk cyanide fishing when it is illegal over fishing with nets? How does cyanide fishing affect the people and their livelihood? Do the elements in cyanide destroy coral reefs? Do the fish absorb the cyanide? Does the cyanide make the ocean toxic or poisonous? Should the government monitor fishermen better to officially terminate all usage of cyanide fishing in the Philippines? Is there a plausible reason as to why such an idea should be better enforced? Are there any benefits of not practicing cyanide fishing?

 

Is there a better method of fishing that hasn’t been introduced to fishermen that still cyanide fish today? Fishermen that have become accustomed to cyanide fishing as their way of fishing claim that it is the easiest way to catch fish in abundance. Is this a true statement? Is this merely an assumption that has been passed down or is it based off of the personal experiences of each individual fisherman? If cyanide fishing is proven to be very harmful to the environment or even lethal is there a way to communicate the scientific facts to the fishermen struggling in beach towns? Is there a new and better method of fishing that these fishermen can use that is not burdensome and will continue to catch a plethora of fish?

 

The initial purpose of this project will be to research the positive and negative effects of cyanide fishing. This will be done through intensive research on information provided by marine biologists over the internet, first hand observations and interviews with the fishermen themselves. These initial findings will help guide the experimental phase, where the key variables in the coral survivability and importance will be further investigated.

 

It is hoped that new methods of fishing may be found to further benefit both the communities in remote islands in the Philippines and the environment as well. Through gaining a better understanding of the needs of the environment, opportunities to inform and teach the fishermen will arise and the continuing frequent usage of illegal activity will finally be put to and end.

 

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Biology

 

Common Names and Synonyms

 

Because of the bushy appearance of the Acropora valida it is also commonly known as the “Bush Coral” or “Bushy Staghorn Coral”. The Bush Coral is a stony coral; hence the classification under the family Scleractinia. In the Philippines all Acropora corals are merely called Acropora or coral (koh-rahl), there are no real native names for these. Sometimes natives by the beach may call them “bato sa dagat” meaning “rock in the ocean”. It is common for the Acropora valida to be called “Purple Monster” as a hobby name as well.

 

Classification

 

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Cnidaria

Class: Anthozoa

Order: Scleractinia (Stony Corals or Hard Ray)

Family: Acroporidae (Reef Building Corals or hermatypic)

Genus: Acropora (Staghorn Coral)

Species: valida (Cluster)

 

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Morphology and Physical Description

 

       

 

    Figure A. Acropora valida                 Figure B. Skeletal Detail

 

 

The Bush Coral grows to about 10-20 cm in diameter and seldom exceeds .5 metres. It is classified as a hard coral that is hermatypic (very common for reef-building corals) which means it contains zooxanthallae. This coral comes in many different colours. There are brown, cream, yellow, green bush corals and some even have purple tips like in Figure A. With numerous individual polyps, the Acropora valida takes the general shape of a bush. Polyps come in a range of sizes, from a few centimeters to a few feet. These coral’s polyps are very small in size. Figure B is a picture of the skeletal detail of an Acropora valida polyp, it is about 2.5 centimeters.

 

Each polyp is radial in symmetry and shaped in a tubular form. One end is enclosed, that is the part where the polyp connects to its growing surface and the other end is open. The open end is used for consuming food, excreting wastes and reproduction.

 

The body tissues of these polyps are fairly simple. There are 2 layers with a substance dividing the 2. The outer epidermis is the outside layer that touches the water and is seen by the onlookers. This layer contains a diverse collection of cells each with separate functions to help the polyp. It includes the epitheliomuscular cells which help with the movement of the polyp through its muscle fibers. Sensory receptors and primitive nerve cells are also present in the outer tissue. These act as “the brain” by gathering information about its surroundings and processing it. There are also mucus-producing cells and interstitial cells. The mucus-producing cells produce mucus that removes dirt and protects the polyp from alien particles that may harm it. These are crucial to the polyp. The interstitial cells differentiate sperm cells to egg cells during reproduction and may develop into one of the other specialized cells.

 

Beneath the outer epidermis is a jelly-like substance which is called mesoglia, it divides the 2 layers. The last layer of skin is the inner gastrodermis. Like the outer epidermis, the gastrodermis also contains special cells. However, unlike the outer epidermis, it has only 2 dominant cell types—the glandular cells and the epitheliomuscular cells. The glandular cell secretes enzymes that are used in the stomach to digest. And just like the outer epidermis’ epitheliomuscular cells, in the gastrodermis it also helps with the movement of the polyp.

 

The polyps of hard corals are strong and very solid this is because they produce a calcium carbonate shell as a protective wall or cover. The skeletal wall around each individual polyp is called the theca.

 

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Getting Food

 

Bush Corals are photosynthetic. They require no physical feeding but instead, get their energy and food from the sun. It also benefits from the symbiotic algae that are within its cells called zooxanthellae which are autotrophs. They are difficult to manage in an aquarium as they require lots of care. Bright lighting must be available (UV) with temperatures ranging from 20 – 28 degrees C.

 

Reproduction

 

Like all acropora corals, the Bush Coral reproduces both sexually and asexually.

 

Asexual reproduction occurs when a piece of the Acropora valida is broken off and continues to grow on a new surface. This is called fragmentation this may be a way to replenish damaged areas of the coral or if part of the coral has acquired a disease.

In sexual reproduction the polyps, which are hermaphrodites (both male and female) release millions of gametes into the water. The planulas (larvae) then live within plankton for some time (maybe several days) before finding new colonies to develop in. Out of the millions of gametes, only a few survive to reach complete reproduction and metamorphose.

 

Environmental Factors

 

Bush Coral colonies reside in the shallow waters of the ocean about 1-20 meters deep at the most. They need to be in shallow water and live well in clear water conditions because they require lots of sunlight as it is their source of energy. In a temperature range of 70-85º F the Bush Coral tends to remain in a healthy condition.

 

There are several key factors available in the environment now, which hinder the mass multiplication of Acropora vida’s. Threats such as, bleaching, hurricanes and algae overgrowth slowly diminish the life of such corals. Diseases may also destroy a whole colony such as the white band disease and others which have not been classified yet. Also, Acro Eating Flatworms and Red Bugs may cause detriment in coral health. These diseases are difficult to research and are still being explored by marine biologists today, information on these are lacking in the internet as not many people are aware of them yet.

 

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Origin and Distribution

 

The Acropora valida may be found thriving in colonies on coral reefs on shallow beaches ranging from the Red Sea to the west coast of Central America. Due to the widespread of interest in coral reefs by aquarium enthusiasts the Acropora valida is now available to be easily bought in pet stores and aquarium trades. This species of acropora corals is the most abundant in the world and may now be found on virtually any coral reef. With the right environment like an appropriate supply of sunlight, a flowing current of salt water, a steady flow of water without too much pressure and a suitable temperature, the Bush Coral has learned to live and adapt in new waters all around the world including in regular homes with aquariums.

 

Importance to People

 

The beauty of our coral reefs is beginning to disappear. One by one each species of coral is starting to struggle to survive due to a number of different causes, most of which we initiate. This is not good. Due to aquarium trade the Bush Coral has found its way to every continent on earth. With a little more care we may be able to save these corals from extinction. As of now, the question of their endangerment is just beginning to arise. Before a rapid downfall of coral population a change must be brought forth to take care and keep the 2% of our world in coral reefs healthy.

 

Though these corals may just seem like something to look at, they also have their places in the food web. These corals are primary producers and are needed by several organisms to live.

 

Once dead, these corals are useless. Though they may be used as decoration, they are almost of no use. Saving these coral species to save the coral reefs is a challenge that must be fulfilled. Conservations to keep coral reefs in full health are one of the many good, well-established ideas taken on by marine biologists to ensure a longer existence period for certain coral species. Better legal systems must be reputed to protect this diminishing wildlife. Giving locals new ways to do easy, day-by-day chores that harm the reefs may also be beneficial to both the environment and the locals.

 

Survivability and Endangered Status

 

As mentioned before, the idea of endangerment of this specific coral species is just beginning to be explored. It has been taken notice of that the population of Bush Corals are moderately reducing and of the causes made are human impacts. This species of coral is predominantly hard to take care of. They are very sensitive and delicate to work with, and taking care of such a coral is very demanding. They will not survive hurricanes and harsh weather conditions or changes in environment. Oil spills, cyanide and other water pollutions may easily kill an entire Bush Coral colony. At one point, the Bush Corals were the most abundant corals in the reefs and now they are struggling to survive. Most pet shops do not sell these because they are high maintenance and are vulnerable to almost anything that is in the least bit harmful.

 

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Potential Solutions

 

Why is cyanide fishing still being practiced in the Philippines if it does harm to the environment? It has been proven that cyanide fishing is destructive to coral reefs and has been banned. Laws have been made to stop this method of gathering fish, however, due to the lack of enforcement there are still large numbers of fishermen in the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia that partake in this devastating act of brutality. Might there be a way to help significantly decrease this number? There are a few possible solutions that may be of benefit to seek an end to cyanide fishing. Below are some ways on how one can take action against cyanide fishing, it includes an analysis of the disadvantages and advantages for each suggestion.

 

Possibility 1

 

License

The government should regulate pet shops all around the Philippines. Pet shops should be licensed and given a certificate proving that they are doing the environment no wrong and are not using harmful techniques to acquire their fishes. However, further measures must be donned including enforcement and annual check-ups.

 

Advantages:

1. It is easier for people to see and know that the shop they are buying from is safe and that they are not supporting something that is hurting what is left of the Philippine marine wildlife furthermore.

2. Shops that do use cyanide fishing will not be able to obtain such certificate and will thus lack legality and a good image.

 

Disadvantages:

1. It is difficult to regulate every single pet shop because they are scattered everywhere in the cities and in the whole of the Philippines.

2. Pet shops usually have more than one provider and for the government to track down every provider of each pet shop would take a long time.

3. Fake licenses and certificates may be easily made.

 

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Possibility 2

 

Educate

Numbers are important. They are crucial to most everything in this world. One person may complain about an issue but if hundreds gather together and complain, they will be noticed. With that being said, it is important for many people, young and old, to be educated on the effects of cyanide fishing and what the current state their country is in regarding this method of fishing. Advertisement and education are rudimentary to any change in attitude for a large number of people. If the government reaches out and makes an effort to educate everybody on this issue and its importance, then a decline in purchasing fish that were caught with cyanide will inevitably occur.

 

Filipinos are largely influenced by television. Almost every single household has a television. Therefore, if the government puts their efforts in creating commercials advertising the seriousness of cyanide fishing then many Filipinos would be exposed to it.

 

Advantages:

1. More people would be aware of this subject matter and how it is affecting the coral reefs in the Philippines and why that is important to them.

2. Cyanide fishermen who might not know the destruction they are causing by using this method would be briefly educated on the concern.

3. Owners of pet shops that may be unaware they are supporting cyanide fishermen may investigate more on their provider and may latter decide that they will no longer obtain fish from them.

 

Disadvantages:

1. Many Filipinos don’t pay that much attention to commercials and may sometimes change the channel to avoid them.  

2. Commercials are very expensive to make.

 

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Possibility 3

 

New methods

Fishermen have admitted that they practice cyanide fishing because it is the easiest way to catch exotic fish. Fishermen don’t usually use cyanide fishing to get a large number of fish for the market. Instead, they use cyanide fishing to capture exotic fishes to sell to pet shops in the Philippines and in foreign Southeast Asian countries. The BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) has already begun projects on educating cyanide fishermen on better ways to fish. About a thousand fishermen have turned away from cyanide fishing because of the BFAR.

 

Advantages:

1. It slowly but directly puts an end to the active use of cyanide fishing.

2. Fishermen will not merely lose a way of life but will gain knowledge on how to provide for their family without harming the environment while ensuring the future of the Philippine marine wildlife.

 

Disadvantages:

1. It is not cheap to go out and teach these new methods to cyanide fishermen. In fact, it would cost a lot to fly a group of people to numerous islands to train them. The trainers will also need to get paid.

2. Some fishermen might not be willing to change their ways.

 

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Possibility 4

 

Inform (My Action Step)

By creating brochures, posters or flyers one may make an impact by educating people in the streets or buying in pet shops. I went to Cartimar, which is a black market near the bay area, where I heard from James contains shops that obtain their fishes from cyanide fishermen. I visited every fish shop (twelve) I saw and asked the shop owners if their fish were caught with cyanide. None of them openly admitted to having connections with cyanide fishermen. I gathered the following information. 

 

Question 1: Do you support cyanide fishing? Do you think it is okay?

Question 2: Do your providers use cyanide as a method of fishing?

Question 3: Did you know that cyanide fishing is illegal in the Philippines?

Question 4: Did you know that corals are living organisms?

Question 5: Did you know that cyanide permanently destroys coral reefs?

Question 6: Have you ever heard or has anyone ever told you that the Philippines has a problem with cyanide fishing?

 

Pet Shop #

 

 

 

Q.1

 

 

 

Q.2

 

 

 

Q.3

 

 

 

Q.4

 

 

 

Q.5

 

 

 

Q.6

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Don’t know

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

5

 

(Burt’s)

 

 

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Never

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Sometimes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

8

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

11 (Samson’s)

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Never

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

 

After speaking to the store keepers of these fish shops, I elaborated on questions 4-6 and informed them that coral are in the kingdom animalia which makes them living organisms. Some already knew all of the information I was sharing, however, some were really clueless and appeared to have been hired only to sell the fish.

 

I spoke with a man named Samson Leguardia (shop#11) and he said that most pet shop owners do not like purchasing fish caught by cyanide because they die quickly and if too much cyanide is used their guts begin to portrude out of their mouths slowly. I told him that almost nobody had admitted to purchasing fish from cyanide fishermen and he explained that some may be ill-informed or some may be hiding the fact that they do. I also spoke with a young man named Burt Espinosa (shop#5) who shared that his boss (the pet shop owner) was an environmentalist that is actually trying to educate fishermen on better ways to fish than cyanide fishing. I was told that acropora corals are a rarity in Cartimar and they come upon request. When they come in, they are bought immediately by the person who requested for them because they are high maintenance and require lots of care. I found that only a couple of the people I spoke with in the pet shops really knew about corals and what they were selling.

 

Advantages:

1. Store keepers will know more about what they are selling and may educate others who are buying from their shop of cyanide fishing.

2. Store keepers/owners who are unaware of how their providers catch the fish they are obtaining from them may be exposed to the issue and take necessary action.

3. People buying from pet shops will know to only support those who do not acquire their fishes from fishermen that use cyanide fishing.

 

Disadvantages:

1. It is difficult to make people listen especially if they don’t have time and are in a hurry. Some may neglect what is being said or completely ignore it.

2. Only a few people may be reached at a time. This is a slow way to educate people.

3. Not everybody reads brochures or posters that are handed to them.

 

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Possible Future Directions

 

After speaking with Burt I had the urge to speak to his boss so I came back and asked if I could somehow get a hold of his boss’ contact number. Burt, himself, didn’t know his boss’ contact number so I left my cell phone number with him in hopes that his boss would call me up sometime. It would be an incredible opportunity to join Burt’s boss in educating fishermen on new methods of fishing rather than cyanide fishing.

 

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Bibliography

 

"Acropora Corals." Animal-World. 6 Apr. 2008 <http://animal-world.com/encyclo/reef/sm_stony/acropora.php>.

 

"Acropora Valida." Aims. Australian Government. 6 Apr. 2008 <http://www2.aims.gov.au/coralsearch/html/001-100/Species%20pages/77.htm>.

 

"Acropora." Wikipedia. 5 Apr. 2008. 6 Apr. 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acropora>.

 

"Chapter Three." Bishopmuseum. 5 Apr. 2006 <http://www.bishopmuseum.org/research/pbs/Oman-coral-

 

book/Chap3/CorBkCh3htm.htm#Acropora%20valida>.

 

Espinosa, Burt. Personal interview. 4 May 2008.

 

"Family Name Listing." Corals of National Park of American Somoa. 29 Sept. 2007. 5 Apr. 2008

 

<http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/basch/uhnpscesu/htms/NPSAcorl/family/Acropori.htm#top>.

 

Leguardia, Samson. Personal interview. 4 May 2008.

 

Saltcorner. 6 Apr. 2008

 

<http://www.saltcorner.com/sections/zoo/inverts/stonycorals/acropora/Avalida.htm>.

 

Tsu, James R. Telephone interview. 28 Apr. 2008.

 

 

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Cyanide Fishing

 

 

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