SPEAKER Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s bill aimed at saving sharks from extinction has been approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources chaired by Cebu City Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa.
House Bill 7912 or an Act seeks to regulate the catching, sale, purchase, possession, transportation, importation, and exportation of all sharks, rays, chimaeras, or any part thereof in the country was principally authored by the Speaker.
Arroyo has been advocating for the ban of catching, selling or purchasing of sharks, rays and other fish.
When she first won as Representative of Pampanga she already filed such a measure.
During the hearing, Abellanosa and Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Kalid Dimaporo both stressed the importance of approving the bill, as it was already a refiled measure and the original measure was approved in the immediately preceding Congress.
Speaker Arroyo said HB 7912 supports the country’s commitment to international obligations, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention to the International Trade in Endangered Species, and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, among others.
It is also aligned with the 2020 Conservation Roadmap for Sharks and Rays in the Philippines, and the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks in the Philippines.
Despite the lack of understanding on the sharks’ various roles in the ecosystem, Speaker Arroyo said it is clear they are the key players in structuring food webs, whether they are at the top of the food chain or at the lower levels.
The Speaker said sharks are typically depicted as apex predators that have significant top-down effects on the food web. They help keep prey populations healthy by feeding on weak, sick or old fishes, and prevent overgrazing of critical marine habitats.
“Therefore, the removal of sharks from an ecosystem has the potential to create significant changes to predator-prey interactions, affecting the whole system. Aside from ecological benefits, sharks and rays have also been proven to boost local economies through sustainable tourism in many developing countries,” Speaker Arroyo said.
The Speaker stressed that due to their unique life history traits, sharks and their relatives reproduce slowly, making them particularly vulnerable to threats from targeted fisheries, overfishing, bycatch, pollution, unregulated tourism, and climate change.
The bill mandates the Department of Agriculture to have jurisdiction over sharks, rays, and chimaeras, and all declared aquatic habitats. In the province of Palawan, jurisdiction herein conferred is vested to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development pursuant to RA 7611.
The bill provides that no entity or person shall be allowed possession of shark unless such person or entity can prove financial and technical capability or facility to maintain such species.