Observing the month of the ocean Part III – Other Equally Important Marine Resources
In an earlier issue this column highlighted the Philippine corals and coral reefs – delving on its past, present and future status and other statistics of bio-ecological and socio-economics importance. Add to this the fish, shellfish, seaweed, seagrass, and mangroves that abound in its 7,100 islands. Briefly, let us be refreshed about these so-called natural heritage of the sea, by showing some figures. Thus:
Seaweeds. Figures available tell us that the Philippines has about 820 species of algae herein represented by the more ‘visible’ seaweeds (1,062 species) coming in green, brown, and red colorations owing determined by the dominant pigments present. Of these, close to 300 species (including the highly-prized, protein-rich new species Porphyra marcosii Cordero), were described by this writer for his doctoral dissertations. There were lesser number of green and brown species described by him (Cordero). Thus, green algae/seaweeds because of the chlorophyll pigmentation like our popular “lato” (Caulerpa racemosa and other related species) with grape-like parts; brown due to the pigment fucoxanthin seen in “kulafu” (Sargassum) growing on rocks near tidal marks, but may form large and wide population seawardly as to simulate what this writer has called as “Sea Forest”; and red due to the secretion of phycoerythrin seen in “guso” (Kappaphycus and Eucheuma), “gulaman” (Gelidiella acerosa), and “gulaman-dagat” (Gracilaria) – collectively referred to as Sea Vegetables, being edible ones.
Seagrasses. These lowly plants, like seaweeds, are almost unknown to the Filipinos, but for students in marine biology and fishery. Little do we know that the Philippines has the distinction of standing second to Australia, for having the highest seagrass diversity in the world. The country has an extensive 27, 282 square kilometers of seagrass cover. We have 19 species out the world’s 80 species described todate! Both seagrass cover and some of the species are slowly lost, either through man-made or nature-initiated doings. Seagrass may not be popular for its food value (except for Thalassia hemprechii or “lusay”, that luxuriates in Cancabato Bay. This plant’s younger, tender and softer blanched leaves are eaten by the Ilokanos in the form of salad or mixed in vegetable or fish stews. Alas, like seaweeds growing attached on rocks or in brackish, muddy bottom, are unable to move/escape from the wrath brought by mine-tailings, untreated liquid coming from factories, or households, not to forget oils spilled/thrown to the aquatic ecosystem. Seagrass are useful as pollution index indicator.
Fishes. Philippine fish come in the form of demersal groups (e.g. anchovies, siganids, “danggit”) caught in the shallow waters and the pelagic ones (e.g. tuna) that inhabit the deeper water of the ocean/sea. Fish catch from the sea is ably augmented by the flourishing fishpond-cultured “bangus”, “tilapia”and “sugpo”. among the more popular ones. This activity is enhanced by breakthroughs in pre- and post-harvest technologies on pond-cultured fish/shellfish. Statistics have it that the country’s top three fishery products are prawn, tuna and seaweeds.
Not to be forgotten is the presence in Philippine waters of large fish species like the “butanding” and “dolphin” as well as mammals like “dugong”, at times regarded as tourist attractions. Of course, the Philippine waters, washed by the Pacific Ocean, have shellfish species used as food “tahong” and “talaba”, prized “abalone” and ‘mother of pearl’, to name some.
Region 8 and the Visayan Sea are hosts to biodiverse species of corals, seaweeds, seagrasses, fishes and shellfishes, but should be harvested for its food and other uses emphasizing on conservation and protection. Fish kills in Lake Bito is due to ‘man’s utter disregard of the sea/ocean ecosystem. This has socio-economic repercussions,
reason why our fisherfolks and other marginalized sectors of society are crying for help!
NEXT TOPIC : Concluding, “Part IV of Observing the Month of the Ocean”
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By: Dr. Paciente Cordero, Jr.
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