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Fishery productivity in coastal areas

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The fishery productivity patterns in coastal areas in monsoonal areas appear to be highly influenced by land forms.

This influence is indirect, through the effect of seasonal monsoon winds on the coastal waters. It is a common observation that coastal areas exposed to the northeast monsoon develop rough seas but those on the opposite rain-shadow side are calm. This situation is especially pronounced if there exists a high mountain on a moderately sized volcanic island, such as Negros.

The point I would like to emphasize in this column is that, although coral reef fish recruitment took place the year round, the peaks in species richness and density occurred during the relatively calm months with minimal winds in the marine waters on the lee side of southern Negros.

Factors associated with the relatively calm season included temperature but not rainfall. This is demonstrated for the first time in the recently published paper of Rene Abesamis and Garry Russ.

Abesamis is a research Fellow of the Silliman University-Angelo King Center, and Garry Russ is professor at James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

This phenomenon was first hinted by Daniel Pauly, one of the great fishery scientists, but demonstrated by Abesamis and Russ. I will not be surprised if this significant finding will trigger more research activities on reef fish recruitment in an archipelago like the Philippines. Those who read this column will understand why research to better understand nature is necessary.

The role of monsoon-related fish recruitment patterns just described must have evolved in the past, just like most other biological or ecological trends in nature. This is the academic lesson learned.

But we must ask about the implications for the present and for the future.

The present status of the coastal areas of the country is not one to be proud of. Fishery experts and marine scientists are worried that most fishery productive marine areas have become depleted, and management effort to restore the productivity should be their urgent and priority concern.

Certainly, the finding must be applied to strategies of conservation. For one thing, it is clear that conservation needs to be done during the whole reproductive period of the species on which we depend for our well being.

One of the problems beyond our ability to control is the extreme weather conditions expected because of climate change. If the weather changes involve extended periods of rough and stormy seas, the expectation would be less fish recruitment and less fish catches in the future.

Under such conditions, what are we to do?

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