Satellite Data Indicate Illegal Fishing Surged in Philippines During COVID-19 Lockdown
Illegal fishing appeared to spike during the Philippines' lockdown period as commercial fishers took advantage of reduced patrols to ply coastal waters that they're prohibited from fishing in, satellite tracking data indicate.
The months of March to May are prime fishing season in the Philippines, ahead of the start of the monsoon in July, when sailing conditions become difficult. This year's fishing period coincided with the lockdown imposed by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, running from March 17 until May 15, and during which all land, sea and air travel was shut down.
But that didn't stop illegal fishing, according to aggregated data from Karagatan Patrol, an online reporting platform that's a collaboration between the nonprofit group Oceana Philippines and the country's League of Municipalities to counter illegal fishing. Karagatan Patrol tracks ships through VIIRS (visible infrared imaging radiometer suite), a satellite-based tool that detects the high-radiance lure lights used by commercial fishing vessels.
Most small-scale fishers use underequipped boats with lights that aren't powerful enough to be detected by VIIRS, observers say. And while VIIRS detection doesn't automatically mean the presence of illegal fishing activity, the key factor is where the light sources occur: In the Philippines, commercial fishing is not permitted within 15 kilometers (9 miles) of the coast. These areas, defined as municipal waters, are restricted to small-scale fishing, in order to protect the coral reefs and marine habitats that thrive there.
Satellite data record illegal fishing vessels, appearing as red dots, encroaching within municipal waters, shown as blue lines, from May 16 to 22, 2020. Karagatan Patrol
In February, before the lockdown began, VIIRS data showed 3,602 instances of apparent commercial fishing vessels, about 900 per week on average, within municipal waters. In March, when the lockdown was implemented, that number jumped to 5,950, or an average of 1,487 cases a week. In April, the figure was 4,487 for the month or 1,121 average weekly cases. The first week of May saw a decline in detections with 309 but figures jumped to 656 in the second week, May 9-15. When lockdown eased, a total of 1,666 detections were made within municipal waters in the week of May 16-22.
"The excuse of commercial fishing operators found plying on the municipal water is that they are hiding from high waves," Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana vice president and head of its Philippines office, told Mongabay. "In reality, they go fishing in bays and gulfs that are critical marine habitats that will destroy spawning grounds of young fishes."
Oceana notes that "only small, artisanal fisherfolks on less than 3 gross tons of fishing vessels with passive fishing gears are allowed" to fish in municipal waters. These coastal territories are known as reproduction and spawning grounds for most fish species, Oceana said. Recent records show that the size of wild-caught fish like sardines is shrinking, implying they are being caught before they can grow big enough to properly reproduce.
The VIIRS data from May detected these vessels within three major protected areas: El Nido-Taytay Managed Natural Resource and Protected Area and Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape/Seascape, both in Palawan province; and Ticao Burias Pass Protected Seascape, a marine corridor that covers the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon.
Masbate, which has 20 coastal municipalities, had the highest number of detections in its municipal waters in May, at 320. Palawan registered 249, while Quezon, which faces the Pacific, had 208.
These provinces are prolific sardine producers, together accounting for nearly 11,500 metric tons in 2018, or 13% of the Philippines' total, according to the Fisheries Statistics of the Philippines, a government publication.
Oceana's Ramos attributed the increase in apparent illegal fishing during the lockdown period to the fact that "some enforcement agencies were diverted to other COVID-19-related tasks." As a result, illegal fishers took advantage of the lack of monitoring, she said. But some municipalities in the central Philippines joined forces to "enhance enforcement of fisheries and environmental laws in their municipal waters," she added.
It's unclear which of the numbers of detected vessels are local and those that are foreign since VIIRS only tracks strong lure lights, Oceana said. But the figures underscore the need for the government to implement its vessel monitoring rules, which will require commercial fishers to install tracking devices "that will indicate the identity and specs of the fishing vessel, aside from their real-time location."
Commercial vessels fishing within municipal waters are a persistent problem in the Philippines' fisheries sector, on which 1.9 million people depend for their livelihood; around 1 million are community fishers from underprivileged communities.
Three-quarters of the country's waters are considered overfished, and wild-caught fish yields have decreased in recent years, prompting the government to impose closed fishing seasons, strengthen the aquaculture sector, and speed up the declaration of marine protected areas.
"We cannot allow illegal entry of commercial fishers in municipal waters," said Gerard Montojo, the mayor of the island municipality of Romblon. "We need support in monitoring our municipal waters, and the tracking device installed on commercial fishing boats plying our territorial waters is a big help so we can run after them, seize their boats, and arrest them so they are held accountable by the law."
But while legislation mandating the use of these tracking devices has been on the books since 2015, the implementation continues to be delayed, Ramos said. The commercial fishing sector is strongly opposed to the requirement, she said, "but this will not matter" if there's political will to act.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.
The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org<p>These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=0P0ZYbIAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Aaron Schwartz</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10045" target="_blank">compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas</a> in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.</p><p>Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as "no," "not" and "can't," and fewer first-person pronouns like "I" and "me." It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.</p><p>Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Is-risk-of-coronavirus-transmission-lower-15287602.php" target="_blank">much lower outdoors than inside</a>. As scholars who study <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yFzb2EUAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">conservation</a> and how nature <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=CCnUeN8AAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">contributes to human well-being</a>, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans' current blues.</p>
Park Visits Are Up During the Pandemic<p>According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd's death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.</p><p>Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people <a href="https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/sd3h6" target="_blank">using green spaces more</a> since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.</p>
<div id="4c7e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc0ac146ab2a94228f32d973fc2ab272"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289428912879964160" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#Goldengatepark #sf #quarantinemood https://t.co/9l3ufnbkt6</div> — Suvd (@Suvd)<a href="https://twitter.com/Suvd19486406/statuses/1289428912879964160">1596258783.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.</p><p>Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.10658.pdf" target="_blank">Twitter study</a> to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.</p><p>Parks and public spaces won't cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.</p><p>In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005" target="_blank">improved moods and better memory performance</a> compared to the urban group. And a team led by <a href="https://penniur.upenn.edu/people/eugenia-gina-south" target="_blank">Gina South</a> of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298" target="_blank">reduced local residents' feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health</a>.</p>
Creative Strategies<p>It isn't easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.</p><p>These initiatives don't have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.</p><p>Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank">COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people</a>.</p><p>Cities can also create parklike spaces by <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-fewer-cars-on-us-streets-now-is-the-time-to-reinvent-roadways-and-how-we-use-them-140408" target="_blank">closing streets to cars</a>. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to <a href="https://thecityfix.com/blog/bicycles-slower-speeds-livable-city-paris-mayor-anne-hidalgo-plans-ambitious-second-term-dario-hidalgo/" target="_blank">reallocate public space</a>, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.</p><p>Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-15/a-brief-history-of-park-ing-day" target="_blank">transform parking spaces into mini-parks</a> with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.</p><p>Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won <a href="https://www.tpl.org/parkscore" target="_blank">national recognition</a> for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.</p>
<div id="25fd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="383f0d2df0237e9359c30dcce6cd6c42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1276558744835379201" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Looking to safely get outside? Check out the best parks for social distancing in this year's top ten ParkScore citi… https://t.co/HJjEtDsrTD</div> — The Trust for Public Land (@The Trust for Public Land)<a href="https://twitter.com/tpl_org/statuses/1276558744835379201">1593190296.0</a></blockquote></div>
A New Park Deal?<p>The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act.asp" target="_blank">American Reinvestment and Recovery Act</a>. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.</p><p>Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/nyregion/amy-cooper-false-report-charge.html" target="_blank">racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder</a> in New York's Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaax0903?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news" target="_blank">growing body of evidence</a> that they provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116" target="_blank">clear mental health benefits</a>. Creating and expanding parks also <a href="https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f568e0ca499743a08148e3593c860fc5/economic-impact-study-summary.pdf" target="_blank">generates jobs and economic activity</a>, with much of the money spent locally.</p><p>We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.</p>
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