Surigao City council mulls regulating collection of sargassum

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/17 April) – The City Council has eyed passing an ordinance regulating the collection of sargassum, locally known as samo, a type of seaweed that is abundant off the coast of Surigao del Norte.

City Councilor Christopher Bonite, chair of the environment committee, said a study on the trading and gathering of this brown sea grass should be done as basis for the regulation.

“We have to seriously look into this because I have heard that some fisherfolk are continuously collecting this brown grass without having any methods of restoring,” Bonite said.

He admitted that banning the collection may hurt some fisherfolk who rely solely on this trade for their livelihood.

Fisherfolk gather samo off the coastal communities of Surigao City’s 21 island barangays including Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands.

Experts said samo provides essential refuge and safe breeding areas for fish, and the unregulated massive harvesting of this sea grass could cause an imbalance in the marine ecosystem.

Darwin Brian Lawas, a marine biologist who works as project officer of Green Mindanao Association Inc., earlier said that this activity must be controlled to prevent imbalance in marine ecosystems that will affect fish and other living organisms.

Lawas stressed sargassum offers safe habitat to numerous species of marine animals including, fish, sea turtles, shrimp, crabs and other invertebrates. As an intricate offshore marine ecosystem, Sargassum is one of the most important structures in the ocean, he said.

Sun-dried samo is sold to buyers in the city at P5 per kilo.

According to Cherry Mea B. Casuyac, who works for one of the Chinese buyers in the city, now is a peak season for their trade since the sunny days would allow the fisherfolk to dry much of their yields.

She said they can have a big volume of samo in just a week.

She added that they usually transport their stocks to Cagayan de Oro City for shipment to China.

Martiniano Yadra, provincial director of the Bureau of Food and Aquatic Resources in Surigao del Norte said that they cannot do anything against the massive harvesting of this sea grass because they don’t have an order yet from higher authorities prohibiting the same.

Many citizens and barangay officials have raised concerned about the massive harvesting of sargassum. But Verlito Paredes, director of the Regional Maritime Office, said they are helpless because they have no legal basis to ban this practice. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)