Fisher folks unite to protect marine life

Coral reef ecosystems along coastlines throughout the Philippines islands support an incredibly diverse community of fish species and marine life.

Coral reefs are unfortunately being degraded or destroyed due to a combination of factors, such as shifts in climate (including typhoons) and over fishing. These factors place at risk those fish species and marine life being supported by the reef. The biodiversity and numbers of fish and other marine life is of vital importance for the health and sustainability of the coral reef ecosystem.

A coral reef ecosystem along the coastline of Barangay Barosbos, Municipality of Carles, has been a focus of restoration, development and conservation for the fisherfolk members of the Barangay Barosbos Mananagat Association (BBMA). BBMA was established in 2011 and has grown to a membership of 36 local fisherfolk under the leadership of President and local fisherman, Romel Marcelino.

The BBMA is focused on marine conservation and supporting the local fisherfolk in their community. The association members understand the vital connection between marine conservation and food security.

Prior to the establishment of BBMA there was a lot of illegal fishing in the area, including the use of poison (e.g. cyanide, etc) to kill and catch large amounts of fish, and/or fishing with fine netting to increase catch size. BBMA are therefore active in the preservation of the existing coral reef ecosystem, establishing a marine sanctuary and partnering with the local police in patrolling the waters to eliminate illegal/over fishing in or around the sanctuary area.

Off the coast of the Barosbos community, markers float on the surface of the waters clearly establishing the boundaries of a protected coral reef marine sanctuary. The sanctuary is comprised of both natural and artificial reefs and is a restricted and patrolled zone, allowing only hook-and-line fishing in predetermined areas.

The association has gone beyond marine preservation, focusing also on the development of the coral reef ecosystem through artificial reefs. The goal of artificial reef development is to help increase coral cover in areas where the natural coral has been degraded/damaged.

This active conservation of the coral reef provides a marine sanctuary greatly increasing both the numbers and diversity of fish and marine life. This benefits local fisherfolk who do not have to travel as far to catch fish therefore spending less hours out at sea and using far less fuel for their fish catch.

President Romel attributes the success of the BBMA to having “a united group of members who are willing to cooperate together and who are very committed to their responsibilities”.

Typhoon Yolanda caused damage to 50% of the naturally occurring coral reefs along the coastline of Barangay Barosbos. Through the support of ADRA, construction and deployment of jackstone-type artificial reefs has provided cash-for-work for 21 fisherfolk in Barangay Barosbos. Resources were provided to BBMA to enable the construction of 175 jackstones, each weighing 250-300 kilograms, for deployment in their local waters. This has provided further growth to their developing marine sanctuary. On behalf of BBMA and the wider community Romel shared, “We say a big thank you to ADRA. This is a big blessing for BBMA, we have benefitted greatly.”

ADRA’s livelihood project funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development International Humanitarian Assistance (DFATD-IHA) and ADRA Canada has supported a total of 300 fisherfolk across five (5) coastal barangays in the Municipalities of Carles and Panay with much needed cash-for-work and resources to enable construction of 500 jackstone-type artificial reefs. This cash-for-work provides early livelihood recovery assistance to typhoon-affected families in the short-term, while the deployment of the constructed jackstone-type artificial reefs provide long-term assistance in re-establishing damaged coral reef ecosystems through the development of coastal marine sanctuaries.