The Philippines Gets a Little Safer for Endangered Sharks and Rays

A new marine sanctuary will also help preserve the area’s thriving ecotourism economy.

A giant manta ray. (Photo: David Loh/Reuters)

Jul 6, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

Just in time for Shark Week, a town in the Philippines has announced that two renowned diving sites in the Visayan Sea have become the nation’s first sanctuary for sharks and rays.

The mayor of Daanbantayan in Cebu province signed an order on Friday establishing nearby Monad Shoal and Gato Island as safe harbors for both animals, according to a press release from Greenpeace Philippines, as well as an online update from the group Save Philippine Seas.

So, Why Should You Care? Hunters and poachers are decimating sharks and rays worldwide to supply the surging global trade in wildlife parts for luxury foods such as shark fin soup or so-called medicinal products. Both predators fill a crucial niche in healthy marine ecosystems by keeping populations of other fish in check.

Update on Shark and Ray Ordinance Implementation Planning Workshop (Day 3): A press conference was held in the Cebu...

Posted by Save Philippine Seas on Friday, July 3, 2015

The Monad Shoal and Gato Island area is home to “rare, threatened and vulnerable species,” reported the Philippines News Agency, such as “thresher sharks, white tip sharks, manta rays and devil rays.” Monad Shoal, a submarine island, is known to divers and sharks alike as a “cleaning station” that sharks visit daily to let eel wrasses nibble parasites off their skin.

“Our landmark…will ensure the protection and conservation of sharks and rays which are threatened to extinction due to overfishing and the general lack of awareness on the importance of these highly endangered species,” said Mayor Augusto Corro in the Greenpeace statement. “Hosting the shark and ray sanctuary is also one of the best ways in which our local community can give back to these creatures for bringing in tourism revenues which boosts their livelihood.”

According to Greenpeace Philippines, about 80 percent of the area’s economy is driven by scuba diving.

Cebu province’s illegal fishing task force intends to launch a program supporting the new ordinance, reported The Philippine Star. “This is to ensure that the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary will be effective,” task force chief Chad Estella told the newspaper, “particularly in reversing fish decline due to overfishing.”