Tuesday, August 29, 2006

 

Muro Ami, the Fishing Gear

By

Melchor F. Cichon
August 29, 2005

This writer is very grateful that the muro ami, the fishing gear, has been banned in the Philippines. this is specified in Sec. 92 of the Philippine fisheries Code of 1998 (RA 8550), which says that:

Sec. 92. ban on Muro-ami, Other Methods and Gear Destructive to Coral Reefs and Other Marine Habitat. It shall be unlawful for any person, natural or juridical, to fish with gear method that destroys coral reefs, seagrass beds, and other fishery marine life habitat as may be determined by the Deaprtment. "Muro-Ami" and any of its variation, ansd such similar gear and methods that require diving, other physical or mechanical ascts pound the coral reefs and other habitat to entrap, gather or catch fish and other fishery species are also prohibited."

But it cannot be denied that this fishing gear is one of the most productive fishing gears in the country.

If we look at the fisheries statistics, muro ami was the top four fishing gears in the country before the 1981s.

Fishing Gears…..Production (in kilograms)

Purse seine…..168,918,000
Bag net…..107,229,000
Ring net …..39,774,000
Muro ami…..10,058,000
Hook and line….. 5,923,000
Push net …..5,336,000
Gill net…..2,350,000
Round hawl seine …..1,817,000
Long line…..1,170,000
Beach seine…..510,000

Despite its great production and the number of fishermen it employed, muro ami was also one of the most controversial fishing gears in our country. It contributed in the destruction of coral reefs.

According to Tacio, this drive-in net was introduced by the Okinawan fishermen before World War II. It is used for fishing in coral reefs. It has two long wings which are driven by divers to lead the fish to the main net. It has vertical scarelines weighed down by stones or chain links that create noise or disturbance on the corals. This drives out the fish from the coral reef to the net.

According to Dr. Angel Alcala, each muro-ami uses 10 to 150 swimmers that use scare lines attached to an oval rock weighing 4 to 5 kg. The swimmers repeatedly drop the rocks on hard corals as they move towards the bag net. This procedure creates noise and disturbance at the sea bottom, driving schooling and bottom-dwelling fish towards the bag-net, but in the process, it breaks branching and other delicate hard corals.

The divers are usually children wearing nothing but a pair of goggles.

Because of this system, much coral fishes are caught, and much corals are also destroyed.
Below is the production of muro ami since 1949 up to 1987. After 1987, no production of this fishing gear has been reported because the Philippine government has banned it

Year…..Production (in kg)
1949...1,485,260
1950...331,905
1951...693,942
1952...14,490
1953...85,509
1954...532,308
1955..2,109,777
1956...5,874,465
1957...11,738,835
1958...10,045,524
1959...7,750,880
1960...9,572,740
1961...9,362,490
1962...10,878,010
1963...11,622,240
1964...18,320,720
1965...14,160,000
1966...11,722,280
1967...10,246,320
1968...16,641,960
1969...19,307,480
1970...16,832,480
1971...17,893,520
1972...16,827,140
1973...26,475,000
1974...24,033,730
1975...18,992,400
1976...13,799,970
1977...10,523,000
1978...6,283,000
1979...11,671,000
1980...Not available(na)
1981...10,058,000
1982...10,367,000
1983...8,694,000
1984...na
1985...na
1986...na
1987...11,491,000

According to a report, marine biologists Ken Carpenter and Angel Alcala conducted a study on muro-ami in l977 and they found out that "50 divers operating the gear could damage as much as l7 square meters per hectare of coral reef per operation. A muro-ami fishing boat usually operates 3-4 times in a fishing season.

While he admitted that muro-ami is an effective fishing gear, Dr Rafael D.Guerrero III of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development cited some dis-advantages.

"The problems related to muro-ami fishing are its employment of minors (young boys) for fishing, their exposure to health hazards (like the "bends" or narcosis) and the destruction of coral reefs because of the weighted scarelines."

What happens if the corals are destroyed? Definitely, there will no more shelter area and feeding place for fishes, and so they have to look for another feeding place. That is if they have not been caught yet, and if there are still available coral reefs.

As of 1990, only about 5% of our coral reefs are in excellent condition; the rest are either in fair to poor condition.

It was said that the Philippine coral reefs provide food and shelter to as many 2,000 fish species living in it.
It also serves as a buffer against the impact of waves.

Some plants and animals that live in coral reefs are sources of anti-cancer drugs and valuable products.
Lastly, coral reefs attract tourists.

Looking back, perhaps the government should devise a scheme that would utilize the same principle being used in muro-ami in catching fish, except that the dragging device is not stone or metal so that the coral reefs would not be destroyed. Perhaps sound waves from other devices would be developed to scare away fishes from the coral reefs.

An alternative fishing gear was devised, the pa-aling, to replace muro-ami. But it was also found out that it is as destructive as the muro-ami.

This writer does not know if this fishing gear was also banned. If it is not, then it is high time that it should be.

Sources

Henrylito D. Tacio. "Where has all the coral gone?" http://www.peopleandplanet.net/doc.php?id=1716&PHPSESSID=26aa907ad49570378b63f1c4cae97fb5, retrieved: June 21, 2005)
Hall, Howard. " Muro Ami." http://www.howardhall.com/stories/muro_ami.html. retrieved: June 21, 2005
"Our coral reefs." PCMRD Currents. August 1999.
Philippine News Agency. "Human folly blamed for coral reef destruction in RP Environmental." http://www.bayanihan.org/html/public_html/article.php?story=20021220033955682. Retrieved: June 21, 2005.

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