Mr. Gregory B. Poling, the Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, presented the findings and recommendations of a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Expert Working Group on Fisheries and Environmental Cooperation in the South China Sea at a Mabini Dialogue held on 1 February 2018 at the Benedicto Room, Carlos P. Romulo Library.
The CSIS study showed that fishery resources in the South China Sea accounted for 12 percent of the global fish catch in 2015. Over half of the world’s fishing vessels also operate in these waters, employing roughly 3.7 million people. This vital marine ecosystem, however, is under threat due to the effects of climate change and anthropogenic causes such as unsustainable fishing practices, among others. As a result, fish stocks have been depleted by 70-95 percent since the 1950s, and catch rates have declined by 66-75 percent over the last twenty years. Mr. Poling emphasized that the bleak future of fisheries in the South China Sea compels urgent action notwithstanding the existing territorial and maritime disputes.
Mr. Poling presented several recommendations, based on a blueprint prepared by the CSIS Working Group. These include the establishment of a fishery and environmental management area, split enforcement between occupiers and flag states, agreement not to use subsidies for fishing in the South China Sea, coordination of efforts to reintroduce giant clams and other threatened species to depopulated reefs, avoiding activities that damage the marine environment or alter the seabed, and cooperation on marine scientific research.
Mr. Poling reiterated the importance of pressing for useful alternatives to the status quo during the open forum.
The Mabini Dialogue was attended by officials and staff of the Foreign Service Institute, Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Coast Watch Council Secretariat, National Security Council, Philippine Coast Guard, and Supreme Court of the Philippines.