MANILA, OCTOBER 6, 2003  (MALAYA) by ANGEL ALCALA - MANY practitioners of coastal resource management (CRM) either minimize or are not aware of the importance of oceanography in their projects. They usually do their thing by following pre-conceived plans of attaining their purpose, such as community organizing, offering funds for alternative income-generating projects, strengthening of people's organizations, establishing marine protected areas, promoting linkages, and working with local government units to achieve institutionalization of projects.

Under favorable conditions of marine resources, a simple scheme of CRM may work well. However, when the environment is badly degraded and the resources are severely depleted, a closer look at the environment may be needed. If this is not done, then the expectations that by reducing the degree of exploitation the environment will improve and the resources will recover may not become realities. When this happens, the primary stakeholders will lose faith in CRM as a means of improving their lot.

Oceanographic studies of coastal areas are done to provide information on the most productive areas as measured in terms of plankton biomass. Plankton biomass would indicate the sites that favor culture of plankton-feeding marine animals such as mussels and oysters. Plankton biomass plus information on salinity, speed of currents, etc. serve to guide managers in determining the sites most suitable for these organisms as part of income-generating activities, which are a common response to resource depletion.

Oceanographic studies will also provide the information on water circulation in the area during the northeast and southwest monsoon. By knowing this circulation, it is possible for CRM managers to infer the invisible chemical pollutants in the circulating water and the sources and extent of these pollutants as guide to make proper management decisions. From oceanographic data, it is also possible to have an idea of the source of marine larvae and juveniles of marine species found in protected areas.

Water movements, vertical and horizontal, when known can help explain why some areas of the sea are productive of fisheries while others are veritable "deserts." It follows that coastal areas with upwellings are more productive than areas with relatively stagnant or warmer waters. Of course, even oceanographers must learn from fishers, who, by long experience, know where to find fish.

What is communicated in the above discussion is that CRM is an interdisciplinary activity, requiring the combined effort of several marine specialists such as marine biologists, oceanographers, fishery scientists and social scientists and social workers.

An application of oceanographic data in CRM has recently been demonstrated in western Mindanao, where sites of high plankton and fish production, deposits of organic matter from the Rio Grande, and circulation of silt in a bay were determined with the use of oceanographic methods.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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