Wednesday 3 May 2017

All systems go for exploration of Benham Rise as Philippines next major food source

Government officials led by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and a group of Filipino scientists initially planned to pursue another exploratory trip to Benham Rise during the Holy week last month. Primary objective of the exploratory trips was to assess the area’s potential as food source. 
M/V DA-BFAR above will serve as the mother ship of the May5-7 Benham Rise exploration, this after the initial plan to visit the area was cancelled due to unfavorable weather conditions during the Holy Week. (photo credit to

According to oceanographic explorations, 50 species of fish and tiered corals or more can be found in Benham Bank.
The area is part of the spawning grounds for the Pacific bluefin tuna which are known to swim to the US and Mexico, but come back to spawn in the western Pacific, including Benham Rise.

But due to an unfavorable weather condition - a low pressure area spotted within the area of Benham rise, it was cancelled. The low-pressure area is expected to result in rough seas which would make it difficult for the team to conduct activities from April 14 to 15.

Last week President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave his go signal to Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to proceed with the plan to set sail in Benham Rise for the exploration of the resource-rich continental shelf from May 5-7.

The Philippines' research flotilla will be composed of the Research Vessel MV DA-BFAR, which will serve as the mother ship, 4 smaller DA-BFAR vessels and about a dozen FB Pagbabago fiberglass fishing boats manned by Filipino fishermen, Piñol said in a statement.

The research fleet will sail from Infanta, Quezon and will anchor on the "most shallow portion of the Philippine Rise," says Piñol.

The shallow portion of Benham Rise where the depth is only about 70 feet, where an anchored payaos or fish sheds can be established where the fishermen could catch fish using hand lines.

The 3-day expedition will focus on taking note of fish stocks and resources, and what could be done to "protect the area."

“Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources officials and scientists will also study whether it is viable to set up floating structures to serve as rest and refuge area for fishermen and scientists,”, said by Agriculture Secretary  last month.

President Rodrigo Duterte told me to "go ahead and discover what could be done to protect the area," Piñol added.
The Blue fin tuna is a highly commercial and valuable species is only of the perceived 50+ species of fish found in the Benham Rise( photo credit to the owner)

Environmental groups and accredited divers who would wish to join the expedition trip to Benham Rise have been required to proceed to Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to secure their passes.

The President also said last month in a speech at the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM) Tactical Wing and Naval Force troops at Camp General Artemio G. Ricarte in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan that he wants to change the name of Benham Rise to Philippine Ridge to fully assert the country’s claim in the 13-million hectare underwater plateau.

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