In the Philippines, explosive fishing reduces the entire ocean food chain

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Bohol, Philippines – nothing beats the sheer efficiency of explosive fishing.

A fisherman on one of these islands in the central Philippines balanced on a narrow support ship and fired a bottle bomb into the sea with the help of a quarterback. It exploded violently and rocked the bottom of our boat, filled with a pungent smell. Fish float on the surface, dying or breathing for the last time.

Under water, corals break up into gravel.

The explosion ruptures the fish’s internal organs, breaking their vertebrae, or tearing them apart with pieces of coral. From tiny plankton to seahorses, sea anemones and sharks, they survived within a radius of 30 to 100 feet.

The Philippines, with 10,500 square miles of coral reefs and a global center for Marine biodiversity, has been trying to protect it in the face of human activity and institutional inaction. But as the effects of climate change on the oceans become more acute, stopping explosives and other illegal fishing has become a new urgency.

Assorted fish and crustacean brought up by a trawler in Kudat Bay, Sabah, Malaysia. 26 June

Bohol, Philippines – nothing beats the sheer efficiency of explosive fishing.

A fisherman on one of these islands in the central Philippines balanced on a narrow support ship and fired a bottle bomb into the sea with the help of a quarterback. It exploded violently and rocked the bottom of our boat, filled with a pungent smell. Fish float on the surface, dying or breathing for the last time.

In the Philippines, explosive fishing reduces the entire ocean food chain

The explosion ruptures the fish’s internal organs, breaking their vertebrae, or tearing them apart with pieces of coral. From tiny plankton to seahorses, sea anemones and sharks, they survived within a radius of 30 to 100 feet.

The Philippines, with 10,500 square miles of coral reefs and a global center for Marine biodiversity, has been trying to protect it in the face of human activity and institutional inaction. But as the effects of climate change on the oceans become more acute, stopping explosives and other illegal fishing has become a new urgency.

No longer are any reefs in good condition, with 90 per cent classified as poor or fair, according to preliminary results of the Philippines coral reef survey conducted by the Philippine science journal from 2015 to 2017.

“It’s kind of depressing,” said Porfirio Alino, a professor of coral studies at the university of the Philippines’ institute of Marine sciences.

The effects of climate change – warmer water and acidification that causes coral bleaching and drives some reefs to death – are hard to solve. But if the stress caused by human activity can be stopped, Dr. Arirano explained, reefs have a better chance of survival.

Fried fish fishing destroys the nests and growth of food chains and corals. Explosive fishing kills entire food chains, including plankton, fish large and small, and teenagers who don’t grow up to spawn. Without healthy corals, ecosystems and the fish that live in them begin to die.

“The New York times” reporter with explosives and provincial fishermen are embedded in the together, because we didn’t use their name or the name of the island they live, afraid of being arrested for exclusive access.

Rubber hose connection between teeth in a bit of air pump, in addition to a homemade flippers and a pair of goggles, no other equipment, one of the fishermen after the bomb was over 30 feet submerged in the water. He waddled along the bottom of the sea, collecting amazing dead fish between cracks and broken coral.

Twenty minutes later, he emerged, breathing five high-value coral fish and 12 pounds of sardines. This is a small problem. The men on board saved a few bucks for their families and sold the rest to a local trader. The two split their income into about $10.

The fisherman said it was the only job he knew to earn the money. Six pounds of fish is a good day for legal net fishermen. Usually they don’t come back. When fishing with explosives, if he used a large jack or grouper, he could return 20 pounds, sometimes up to 45 pounds.

Back on the island, one of the men lit a gas burner under the pan and splashed kerosene into solid white ammonium nitrate beads. The fertilizer has been used illegally in the Philippines since 2002, but men bought sacks from dealers on neighbouring islands.

Another man polished the stone with a kitchen knife, cut an inch-long fuse, wrapped it in aluminum, and tied it to a match with a detonator. They scooped sand out of the ground and introduced it to the bottom of a used glass gooseberry bottle, which was packed with explosives.

He explained that the fuse gave him four seconds to drop the bomb before it exploded. Ill-made bombs or distracted fishermen can be deadly. The island’s men are blind, deaf or disabled, and death is part of the fishermen’s story. Just this year, they said, a man from a nearby island was killed, blackening most of his arms and upper body.

In 2014, the eu issued a yellow card warning the Philippines that it would be banned from exporting to the eu unless its fishing activities were better managed. In response, the Philippines has developed a new fishing code that calls for tougher measures against illegal methods and commercial overfishing. In 2015, the yellow card was removed.

Eduardo Gongona, director of the Philippine fisheries and fisheries resources bureau, said: “our laws are harsh, painful and swift. “We have no regrets about illegal fishermen and illegal fishing.”

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