Thursday, June 29, 2017

Declining seagrasses worry seashell gatherers in Albay coastal village

BACACAY, Albay, June 20 (PNA) —- Seagrasses gracefully dance with the sea current, serving as a nesting ground and as habitat of marine species to create a natural seagrass garden along the coastline of Bacacay town in Albay.

In Barangay Buang, Bacacay, villagers, who rely on the sea for a living, however, attest to how these seagrasses have been on a decline through the decades.

They said from the 1960s up to the '80s, their coastline, which faces the Pacific Ocean, were once dense with seagrasses, so-named because most species have long, green, grass-like leaves.

“Over time, there has been a decline in the seagrasses, which are home to the seashells,” said Marcy Burac, 53, a resident of Buang who collects seashells along the coasts as a means of livelihood.

Fishermen here noted the decline in the marine species from the 90s up to the present.

On a particular day, Marcy, along with her 10-year-old son Jeric, a grade 4 pupil, rush to the seashore as soon as the sea water recedes to collect the seashells.

Mother and son, with their “eco-bags” and “bolos” (a type of native knife) then scoop the seashells beneath the seagrass beds.

Locally known here as “bariw-bariw,” the seashells appear once the sea water recedes during low tide, which occurs for around two to three hours.

During this time Marcy and son start to collect the seashells which they sell to local tourists at PHP60 per one medium-sized eco bag.

They fill up the eco bag with a variety of seashells.

According to Marcy “sarad” and “kudkud” are the other types of seashells that villagers could find beneath the seagrass bed.

Scientists attribute the depletion of seagrasses along the coasts such as that in Buang to the warming of sea temperatures brought by climate change.

They said rising sea temperatures produce bigger waves from the ocean which in turn pound the coastlines where the seagrasses are nurtured.

Marcy noted how big waves hit the coastlines of Buang, particularly in the months from July to February.

Restoring the conditions in the ocean so seagrasses could thrive as they did in the past is a concern of everybody, said exhibits mounted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Bicol.

The agency, which is observing June as Environment Month, has been spearheading various activities, among them the holding of a “biodiversity challenge” to spread awareness on environmental consciousness among communities, especially those living along the coastlines.

Environmentalists said restoring the seagrass beds are important as after the estuaries and wetlands, seagrasses are the third most valuable ecosystem in the world.

They said seagrasses modify their environments to create unique habitats.

Known as the “lungs of the sea,” the seagrasses support commercial fisheries and biodiversity, clean the surrounding water and help take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

According to scientists, one square meter of seagrasses can generate 10 liters of oxygen every day through photosynthesis. (PNA)