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Five-country scientific report to address depleting fish stocks in S. China Sea launched

QUEZON CITY -- Government-affiliated scientists from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China joined forces to launch the first Common Fisheries Resource Analysis (CFRA), a landmark analysis of the region’s shared fish resources providing food and livelihoods for millions of people on September 2, 2022.

A previous study showed that the fish stocks in the region have been decreasing from 70 percent to 95 percent since the 1950s. The launching of CFRA showcases the benefits of international collaboration providing science as the basis of evidence in building more sustainable management of the South China Sea’s resources.

Prior to the launch, participants from five countries have been convening between 2018 and 2022, with more than 100 scientists and other experts contributing to the CFRA report.

The Philippines, composed of researchers from the Department of Agriculture-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (DA-NFRDI) led by Dr. Mudjekeewis Santos and Fransciso Torres, Jr., and Nicko Amor Flores, was part of the working group that authored the CFRA, particularly on the joint assessment of Skipjack Tuna stocks in the South China Sea.

Dr. Santos, in his presentation, said that “Each country has a piece of the puzzle and that no one country can manage fish stocks alone. The region needs to act together and that to do this, actions must be based on a scientific consensus.”

He also mentioned why Skipjack Tuna was the focus of the first CFRA. “It is economically important, it can be caught by all five countries, and it is classified as highly-migratory species by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), imposing a duty of states to cooperate," he said.

According to the five-country report, throughout the South China Sea, there is increasing use of fishing equipment that can catch juvenile Skipjack Tuna. If left unmanaged, this could result in too many juveniles being caught before they can breed, which would result in a rapid decline in the population.

Philippine National Security Adviser Dr. Clarita Carlos who keynoted the event reiterated the importance of the report and how the fishing agreement can be one of the things that she would want to focus on in a non-traditional way of dealing with the dispute in the South China Sea.

She also underscored the importance of science and marine scientists all over the world as frontliners in this dispute. She said, “Why do I want the scientists to take the frontline here, to be the major actors in resolving the issue? Because it is the scientists who will have a different mind frame about the sea. And this is the kind of mind frame, which I feel you all have now, is that there is only one ocean, there’s only one heritage of mankind. There is only one ecology.”

The joint analysis of five countries shows that regional scientists can work together to develop the scientific evidence that is essential for an effective regional response.

The CFRA launch was jointly hosted by DA-NFRDI and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a private diplomacy organization based in Switzerland that assists in mediation between conflicting parties to prevent or end armed conflicts. The CFRA report is part of HD’s efforts on private diplomacy, multitrack mediation, and peacemaking efforts in more than 75 percent of armed conflicts around the world. (DA-NFRDI)

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Maria Viktoria Viado

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Visayas Ave., Diliman, Quezon City 

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