Editor's note: This is part 4 in a series of dispatches from the Philippines.
The last site we visited was overseen by Rare conservation fellow Marybeth Rita. Marybeth has a tough job because her campaign covers three towns separated by a hilly unfinished highway that she traverses by motorbike. After some heavy overnight rain, our van could hardly make it through the deep mud (with no guard rail down to the bay!) so I appreciated the difficulty of Marybeth’s assignment.
The mayor of Lanuza, Salvacion Azarcon, met us at her office in the morning. She was a really inspiring woman, and not just because she offered us some local palm wine at 8:30 in the morning. Called pirik-pirik, the wine was mixed with raisins to give it a very mildly sweet taste. It was good enough that we kept the bottle and had more later in the day.
Marybeth and the mayor were working together not just to enact 24/7 volunteer guarding at the MPA, but to start a critically important program to register fishermen. Right now, most local fishermen aren’t registered in any way, so it’s hard to tell if they’re legally in the municipal waters or not. Once registered, fishers will get an awning designed by Marybeth and the pride campaign that promotes the protection of the MPA.
The registration program will also allow fishers to become eligible for a low-interest 2,500 peso loan (about $58). This is a key element of keeping poverty at bay, because unfortunately many fishers can end up in hock to unscrupulous lenders who make loans at outrageous interest rates.
The mayor’s plan will offer a low-interest alternative that also requires fishers to plant backyard gardens with things like lemongrass and eggplant in order to stay part of the program; this is important because it gives the fishers food and something to sell at market when fishing is bad or during the months of November to February, when there is no fishing at all.
And in a stroke of inspiration, the mayor is requiring fishers to actually pay back 2,600 pesos. The extra 100 pesos will go directly into the fisherman’s savings, starting a nest egg for the future.
“This is our simple plan,” Mayor Azarcon said. But I think it’s not just simple, it’s ingenious and sound. The fishers make less than $5 a day, and one dollar of that is usually spent on fuel for the boats that have outboard motors. By protecting two banks – the “fish bank” of the MPA and the monetary one afforded by the loan – the fishers will be a little more insulated from poverty. And that’s a very good thing.
- Obama Administration Approves Seismic Airgun Use off the Atlantic Coast In Spite of Local Opposition and Threats to Marine Life Posted Fri, July 18, 2014
- Ocean News: Green Sea Turtle Makes Longest Migration Ever Recorded, Small Oil Spill Found off of Italy, and More Posted Mon, July 21, 2014
- Oceana Urges Stakeholders to Rebuild Chile's Fisheries at International Seminar Posted Tue, July 15, 2014
- North Atlantic Great White Sharks are Rebounding, but that’s Not the Case for All Species Posted Mon, July 21, 2014
- Ocean News: New Maps Reveal Extent of Ocean Plastic, Florida Keys Launches Turtle Cam, and More Posted Wed, July 16, 2014