Sharks! Open letter to Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino

clip_image002Gov,

Did you know that our beloved Hundred Islands now has shark-infested waters? That is the handiwork of the gentlemen in this photo.

Please investigate the matter of sharks roaming the waters of Hundred Islands, that inviting tourist spot in our beloved Pangasinan. I know the voters of Pangasinan love you because they just voted you into your 3rd term with another landslide victory; I also know you are very much concerned with the environment because you have courageously and successfully carried out the cleaning and dredging of the polluted bodies of water in the province and now I'm proud to say, as a native, that Pangasinan is clean and beautiful even as it grows in truth and in fact. (If you're reading this and you're not the Governor, just remember: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country!)

I'm reading a piece of disquieting news that appears in one of the local community newspapers, the one named Northern Watch with the motto "Truth, Fairness and Courage" with Ms Yolanda Z Sotelo as Publisher & Editor, with offices in Tapuac District, Dagupan City. This news makes me a little worried. It's about sharks being released into the waters of Hundred Islands, in my beloved province.

Here is the complete news item that appears in the issue of 9-15 June 2013 of Northern Watch; it is a Page One caption story by Cesar Ramirez (a portion of the original image is shown above):

BACK TO THE WILD. Officials from the Manila Ocean Park (MOP), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the city government of Alaminos release juvenile white-spotted bamboo sharks (Chiloscyllium plagiosium) at the Hundred Islands National Park last May 31. The activity is part of the MOP's Back to the Wild program. Bamboo sharks grow not more than a meter in length and feed mostly on small fish and bottom-dwelling invertebrates.

Those 72 words exactly match my age; I'm not worried about me, God is good, like I can type this without using reading glasses because still I have sharp eyes; it's the shark release that has me apprehensive about what will happen to Hundred Islands after that. I can't help it, but that piece of news makes me think now of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil in the middle of the Garden of Eden; you know the story about Adam and Eve, but those of you who have forgotten, let me remind you.

Adam & Eve were told not to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, but Eve was tempted enough to disobey God. The release of those sharks is like biting into the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, in this case the Tree of Science, because those sharks are not native to the waters, and if I know my Science, those sharks will adversely affect the biodiversity of the body of water surrounding Hundred Islands.

Deliberately, above I used 2 of the most popular technical terms in the world of Science today: "adversely affect" and "biodiversity" just to let you know that, while I'm not a scientist, as a BS Agriculture graduate of UP Los Baños, a long-standing Editor of technical publications in agriculture, aquaculture and forestry, I should know whereof I speak. To put them in plain English, "adversely affect" means "to harm" or at the very least "to disturb," while "biodiversity" refers to the "variety of life" you find, from the smallest to the biggest, from those living in the bottom of the sea, to those living on top of trees on top of mountains, whether plant or animal or in-between (like the virus). The biodiversity of the Earth includes man, us.

Adam & Eve's eating of that forbidden fruit adversely affected their stay in the Garden of Eden: God kicked them out. I'm afraid those bamboo sharks will not simply kick out but eat out the other species in the earthly garden called Hundred Islands.

Truth, fairness and courage. The truth is, sharks will always be sharks. The Tagalogs call the white-spotted bamboo shark pating because it is a shark (flmnh.ufl.edu). If there was no study regarding the effect of the introduction of sharks into Hundred Islands, where is the fairness there? I'm writing this letter because I have the courage of my convictions.

Let me just talk about my anxiety regarding the variety of living organisms in the waters of Hundred Islands. The Northern Watch news item says, "Bamboo sharks grow not more than a meter in length and feed mostly on small fish and bottom-dwelling invertebrates." Shark or not, a 1-meter fish is a big fish; since this species "feed mostly on small fish," there will come a time when most of the fishes in Hundred Islands will be smaller than the shark, and what will happen to them? I know that we cannot do anything in business where the big fish swallows the small fish, or where the sharks abound in the economy, but we should be able to do something about this fish species that consume the smaller, helpless species in those waters. If economic life is beyond us, marine life should be within our control.

Note also that the bamboo sharks feed "mostly on small fish and bottom-dwelling invertebrates." One source is more specific; it says those sharks feed on small bottom fishes, cephalopods, shelled mollusks and crustaceans (omgsharks.com). And what are those cephalopods? Squids, cuttlefish, octopus. And what are those shelled mollusks? Snails and shellfish. And what are those crustaceans? Lobsters, crabs, shrimps. In other words, before we can catch our squid, snail, lobster, crab or shrimp, this shark has already caught them! I don't like sharks for dinner.

I am thinking here of the wipeout of the diverse marine life in the waters surrounding Hundred Islands. What will happen to the biodiversity? Will it not become a population of schools of sharks and nothing but sharks?

If I am right, the introduction of those sharks in Hundred Islands is contrary to the laws of biodiversity: You are introducing a non-native species that will disturb not only the habitat (the dwelling places) but more so the inhabitants (the dwellers) of the waters of Hundred Islands. Just because you think the bamboo sharks will attract more tourists, you are willing to sacrifice the other marine life that will become food for the species you want people to be happy watching and increase your income from visitors to the Pangasinan?

Not only that. I don't care how attractive those white-spotted bamboo sharks look like. Since these sharks are known to be favorite aquarium pets, you will make the waters of Hundred Islands attractive to poachers.

We do want to increase our tourism income but it cannot be at the expense of the environment, and certainly not at the expense of the multitude of aquatic life that Hundred Islands harbors today, don't we? The art of tourism cannot introduce the spectacle of cannibalism, because that's what those sharks are good at, aren't they? You cannot teach the cannibals to become lotus-eaters, can you? Cannibals eat other living things; if nothing is done, I'm afraid your cannibal will survive and the other species will not. Gov, we don't want Hundred Islands to turn into the Cannibal Hundred Islands, do we?

Sincerely your kailian,

Frank

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