These patterns affect different areas differently. In Palawan, fishermen do not go beyond municipal waters and are therefore hardly concerned by the conflict. [fn] Overfishing in the province remains a problem, which has led to a ban on fishing for certain species in northeast Palawan and efforts to declare marine protected areas in some coastal cities. In addition, some municipalities such as Cuyo, Coron and Busuanga regularly experience interference from commercial interests in their waters, according to statistics compiled by the NGO Oceana. Crisis Group online interview, November 16, 2020. Another problem in Palawan is the trade in live reef fish, which encourages fishermen to sell samples of rare species to regional and global customers. Hide footnote The situation with the Spratlys is more complicated. Commercial fishing enterprises have already reported a decline in their catches in the region in 2013. While local fishermen have confirmed this sighting, Filipino scientists have found that the accumulation of coral reef fish around Thitu Island has actually increased – a positive sign given the importance of these fish to marine stocks and ecosystems. [fn]”Biodiversity and ecological connectivity”, DENR-Biodiversity Bureau (webinar), September 23, 2020.
Aileen Baviera, “Territorial and Maritime Disputes in the West Philippine Sea: Foreign Policy Choices and Their Impact on Domestic Stakeholders,” Public Policy, Vol. 15, No. 2 (2016), p. 26. However, the abundance of fish species has increased in Nansha and Flat Islands, two neighboring territories occupied by the Philippines. From. [fn]”Biodiversity and ecological networking”, op. cit. Cit. Anecdotal evidence of a scientific expedition to both shoals and near Sabina Shoal suggests that Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen were present. Crisis group correspondence, scientists, 10 November 2020.Hide footnote In other regions, such as Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan province, declining stocks appear to be due to local – sometimes illegal – overfishing rather than maritime disputes further at sea.
[fn] Crisis Group online interview, community workers, 19 October 2020.Hide footnote “It`s hard to convince fishermen to act sustainably,” said the wife of a fisherman in a coastal town. [fn] Crisis Group online interview, community workers, October 19, 2020. Some villages in La Union, for example, are not affected thanks to proactive local government measures such as the creation of marine protected areas. Crisis Group telephone interview, local government representative, 4 September 2020.Hide footnote Local government officials also highlighted the negative impact of climate change on fisheries. [fn] Online interview by Crisis Group, local government official, October 9, 2020.Hide footnote BOHOL, Philippines — Nothing beats dynamite fishing for pure efficiency. Researchers believe that destructive fishing practices such as blasting fish are one of the biggest threats to coral reef ecosystems. Battered coral reefs are nothing more than debris fields. The long-term effects associated with blast tanks are that there is no natural reef recovery. Coral reefs are less likely to recover from constant disturbances such as blasting fish than from small disturbances that do not alter the physical environment.
Blasting fishing destroys calcium carbonate coral skeletons and is one of the constant disturbances of coral reefs.  In the Indo-Pacific, blasting fishing is the main cause of coral reef degradation. As a result, weakened debris fields form and fish habitat is reduced. With a rubber hose attached to an air pump wedged between his teeth and no other equipment except a single fin and homemade glasses, one of the fishermen sank 30 feet into the water after the bomb exploded. It staggered on the ocean floor, collecting stunned and dead fish among crevices and broken corals. Dynamite fishing destroys both the food chain and the corals in which fish nest and grow. Intensive fishing kills the entire food chain, including plankton, large and small fish, and juvenile fish that don`t age enough to spawn. Without healthy corals, the ecosystem and the fish that live in it begin to die. The MATT tackled many of the factors that contributed to the spread of blasting fishing in Tanzania: the New York Times journalists embedded in the dynamite fishermen in Bohol granted exclusive access on the condition that we did not use their names or the names of the islands where they live for fear of being arrested.
Scarborough Shoal is a different issue because of its importance as a traditional fishing ground at the heart of the maritime dispute. Fishermen working there reported a significant drop in catches in 2020. [fn] Zambales fishermen reported an average drop in income of 70 percent. Karl Ocampo, “Group: Fisherfolk income down by 70% amid Chinese presence in disputed waters,” Inquirer, 28. May 2021.Hide footnote Their explanations included the presence of too many Filipino fishermen, unsustainable fishing methods (such as the use of dynamite), the migration of fish stocks, and the overwhelming presence of Chinese fishing boats since the 2012 stalemate. In 2019, Duterte was rumored to have signed a “verbal” fisheries agreement with Xi Jinping that would allow China to fish in Philippine waters.