Dr. Mudjekeewis Santos, Scientist IV and chief of the Training Division, addresses a query from the audience during the open forum.

The Department of Agriculture-DA-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (DA-NFRDI) joined key players and stakeholders in an effort to conserve the country’s diverse marine populations through the conduct of “4th Shark Summit” on March 2-3, 2023 at the DA-Agricultural Training Institute in Quezon City.

The summit, themed “Partnerships for Shark Conservation,” aimed to showcase the progress of key players and stakeholders in shark conservation and management, identify challenges hindering progress, and set targets through the development of the Shark Conservation Action Plan.

Representing NFRDI were Dr. Mudjekeewis Santos, Scientist IV and chief of Training Division; Francisco SB. Torres, Jr., co-project coordinator of the National Stock Assessment Program; and Nicko Amor Flores, science research specialist.

Dr. Santos highlighted NFRDI’s initiatives on shark conservation, including the publication of Sharks and Rays National Plan of Action 2017-2022, Philippine Aquatic Red List Committee (PARLC) red list assessments and training, and provision of scientific advice regarding the proposed listing of some sharks species during the CITES Nineteenth Meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP19).

He also presented the significance of conducting a non-detriment finding (NDF) in shark conservation efforts. An NDF is a comprehensive scientific study that evaluates whether any trade would adversely impact the survival of a particular species. Furthermore, it assesses whether trade could allow populations of the species to be sustained throughout its range, at a level that is “consistent with its role in the ecosystems in which it occurs.”

Meanwhile, Torres discussed the fisheries management initiatives of BFAR and NFRDI, both past and present. These initiatives include expanding data collection points of the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP), implementing the Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) in BFAR, establishing closed fishing seasons in some areas based on NSAP data, and creating Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) through the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 263 series of 2019.

In addition, Flores served as one of the emcees during the first day of the summit, alongside Barbie Candel of Save Philippine Seas.

The summit was organized by the DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in collaboration with the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP). ### (Cyrenes Moncawe)