Philippine and International Laws on Marine Wildlife Protection

Being here, you must be interested in learning more to protect our marine wildlife.

For starters, not all marine wildlife are protected by the law. The law only protects marine wildlife that are generally classified as “threatened.” Threatened species are species with a conservation status ranging from VU (Vulnerable), EN (Endangered), to CR (Critically Endangered). It is therefore important to know what species is concerned, and if it has a threatened conservation status. Here’s a list of marine wildlife species and their IUCN conservation status:

Species Conservation Status
Marine Mammals (Whales, Dolphins, Dugong)
Balaenoptera physalus (fin whale) EN
Megaptera novaeangliae (humpback whale) VU
Lagenodelphis hosei (Fraser’s dolphin) VU
Orcaella brevirostris (Irrawaddy dolphin) CR (Malampaya Sound subpopulation)
EN (Philippine Population)
Stenalla longirostris (spinner dolphin) VU
Physeter catodon (sperm whale) VU
Dugong dugon (dugong) CR
Marine Turtles
Chelonia mydas (green turtle) EN
Caretta caretta (loggerhead turtle) EN
Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtle) CR
Lepidochelys olivacea (olive ridley turtle) EN
Dermochelys coriacea (leatherback turtle) EN
Manta birostris (manta ray) VU
Rhincodon typus (whale shark) VU
Carcharhinus longimanus (oceanic whitetip shark) VU
Sphyrna lewini (scalloped hammerhead shark) EN
Sphyrna mokarran (great hammerhead shark) EN
Sphyrna zigaena (smooth hammerhead shark) VU
Manta alfredi (reef manta ray) VU
*Note that there are 29 species of marine mammals, 5 species of marine turtles and more than 200 species of sharks and rays in the Philippines. This list only shows ones that are categorized.

After knowing the species and its conservation status, we next examine the prohibitions under the law for these threatened marine wildlife.

Philippine Laws relevant to Threatened Marine Wildlife

There is no specific law that covers the protection of all marine wildlife. RA 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act covers the protection of all the wildlife resources of our country, especially the threatened and exotic species, as specified in Articles 2 and 3. RA 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code mandates the protection of threatened and rare species as specified on Section 11.

More laws are specified below. What we have is an aggregate of our existing laws. You may view the laws and international agreements in detail below, with summaries and links provided.

In general, the law prohibits the following on marine wildlife:

  • Kill and destroy wildlife species, except: for religious rituals of established tribal or indigenous communities, if the wildlife species is afflicted with an incurable communicable disease, if it is necessary to end the misery that the wildlife is going through, to prevent a danger to the life or limb of a human being, and if wildlife is killed or destroyed after being used in authorized research or experiment.
  • Inflict injury that will impair the reproductive system of the wildlife.
  • Dump waste, squat or otherwise occupy, burn, quarry, log, or extract minerals in a critical habitat.
  • Introduce, reintroduce, or restock wildlife resources.
  • Trade wildlife.
  • Collect, hunt, or posses wildlife and their derivatives.
  • Gather or destroy active nests, nest trees, host plants, and the like.
  • Maltreat or inflict injuries to wildlife species.
  • Transport wildlife.

Penalties range from 6 months to 12 years with fines ranging from Php10,000 – P1,000,000 depending on the status of the population of the threatened species:

  • Critically endangered species [CR] – facing extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future
  • Endangered species [EN] – not critically endangered but whose survival in the wild is unlikely if the causal factors continue operating
  • Vulnerable species [VU] – not critically endangered nor endangered but is under threat from adverse factors throughout their range and likely to move to the endangered category in the near future

The dugong and marine turtles are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, while all declared aquatic habitats and resources (except for dugongs and turtles) are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The Philippine Constitution states:

  • Under the State Ownership of Natural Resources (Regalian Doctrine) that: All lands of the public domain, waters xxx wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. (Const. Art. XII, Sec. 2, par. 1) and;
  • Under the State responsibility that: The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment to Filipino citizens. (Const. Art. XII, Sec. 2, par 2)

List of National Laws Relevant to the protection of marine wildlife

Click on the links below to view the laws in their entirety.

Republic Act Brief Description
RA 7586 (1992)
National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act
Provides for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines.
RA 8550 (1998)
Philippine Fisheries Code
[Sec. 11, 97]
Protects endangered species

SEC. 11. Protection of Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species.
The Department shall declare closed seasons and take conservation and rehabilitation measures for rare, threatened and endangered species, as it may determine, and shall ban the fishing and/or taking of rare, threatened and/or endangered species, including their eggs/offspring as identified by existing laws in concurrence with concerned government agencies.

SEC. 97. Fishing or Taking of Rare, Threatened or Endangered Species.
It shall be unlawful to fish or take rare, threatened or endangered species as listed in the CITES and as determined by the Department.

RA 9147 (2001)
Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act
[Chap. 3, Art. 2-5]
Dedicated to the conservation of the country’s wildlife resources and their habitat for sustainability.
RA 8485 (1998)
Animal Welfare Act
Protects and promotes the welfare of all animals in the Philippines by supervising and regulating the establishment and operations of all facilities utilized for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating or training of all animals either as objects of trade or as household pets.
RA 7160 (1991)
Local Government Code
Covers the implementation of fishery laws in local governments.
RA 8749 (1999)
Clean Air Act
Recognizes the responsibility of local government units to deal with environmental problems
RA 9003
Ecological Solid Waste Management Act
Covers the implementation of a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management program.
PD 1586
Philippines Environmental Impact Statement System
Establishment of an environmental impact statement system, including other environmental management related measures and for other purposes.
RA 10067 (2010)
Tubbataha Act
Ensures the protection and conservation of the globally significant economic, biological, sociocultural, educational, and scientific values of the Tubbataha Reefs
Writ of Kalikasan (2010) Direct respondent to permanently cease from committing acts or neglecting the performance of a duty in violation of environmental laws resulting in environmental destruction or damage

Administrative Orders

“Acts of the President which relate to particular aspect of governmental operations in pursuance of his duties as administrative head shall be promulgated in administrative orders.” –Administrative Code of 1987, Book III, Chapter 2, Section 3.

Administrative Order Covers
DAO 55 (1991)
DAO 15 (2004)
Hawksbill and other turtles
FAO 185 (1992)
All dolphins
FAO 185-1 (1997)
Ammendment on FAO 185 (1992), by adding whales
FAO-193 (1998)
Whale sharks and manta ray
FAO-208 (2001)
Rare, threatened, and endangered species
FAO-233 (2010)
Aquatic wildlife conservation
FAO-233-1 (2011)
Ammendment on FAO 233 (2011)
Joint AO 1 (2005)
Guidelines for cetacean interaction; whale watching
AO 282 (2010)
Enhancement of whale shark protection

International Agreements

Our government has also signed agreements with other countries for the conservation of our marine wildlife.

International Agreement Brief Description
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development & Agenda 21
(Section 2, Chap. 17)
SEC. 2, CHAP. 17 – Protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
Part XIII – Marine Scientific Research
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Article 6 – Develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity or adapt existing strategies for this purpose
Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES)
Appendix I, II, III
An international agreement between governments aimed at ensuring that the trade of wild animals worldwide does not threaten their survival. Appendix I (banned), II (monitored), III (protected in at least one country to control the trade)
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)
Appendix I, II
It is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the guidance of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale.It aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
CMS MoU Turtles IOSEA The MoU puts in place a framework through which States of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian region, as well as other concerned States, can work together to conserve and replenish depleted marine turtle populations for which they share responsibility.
CMS MoU Sharks A legally non-binding international instrument that aims to achieve and maintain a favorable conservation status for migratory sharks based on the best available scientific information and taking into account the socio-economic value of these species for the people in various countries.
CMS MoU Dugong The MoU is designed to facilitate national level and transboundary actions that will lead to the conservation of dugong populations and their habitats. The CMP provides the basis for focused species and habitat-specific activities, coordinated across the Dugong’s migratory range.