As I mentioned in my last post, I have recently travelled to Anilao, Mabini, Batangas as well as to the NFRDI research centre in Butong, Taal, Batangas.
My time in Anilao focused on the use of marine protected areas (MPAs) as a means of promoting sustainable fisheries and alternative livelihoods for fisherfolk. It was also an excellent reason to get an opportunity to do my intro scuba dive (which for the record did not go as well as I had hoped but it can only get better or, as the case may be, deeper!). Since the establishment of three MPAs in the area, Anilao has become a popular scuba diving destination.
While in Anilao I divided my time between one of the original dive resorts in the area, Planet Dive, and the headquarters of the local Bantay Dagat. The Bantay Dagat (Sea Patrol) are volunteer organizations that are made up of local fisherfolk who take responsibility for patrolling their local waters for illegal activities such as fishing in prohibited areas or the use of illegal fishing methods.
In Anilao, the MPAs are funded through the collection of fees (PHP200) for daily dive passes. These funds are mainly utilized to finance the Bantay Dagat’s work enforcing the MPA. By all accounts the MPA structure in Anilao has been successful to the extent that it has allowed Balayan Bay to become a world class diving destination but the system is by no means perfect.
The view from Bantay Dagat HQ
My time at the NFRDI Centre in Taal focused mainly on the conflicts between the extensive fish cage operations and small-scale fisherfolk in Taal Lake. Prior to the establishment of Taal as a protected landscape the lake was home to between 12,000-15,000 fish cages each measuring 10ftx10ftx10ft. Since the implementation of the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape Management Plan the number of fish cages in the lake has been reduced to 6,000.
Pusod, Inc is a major NGO that is focused on community interests and environmental education within the management of the protected landscape. Despite a torrential downpour (welcome to typhoon season in the Philippines!) I had an amazing visit to Pusod’s Taal Lake Conservation Centre! While at the centre I also had the opportunity to meet an executive from Taal Lake’s major fisherfolk organization (Kilusan ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda sa Lawa ng Taa or KMMLT). Like in many of the other communities I’ve visited during my time in the Philippines a major issue is the lack of education regarding the ‘whys’ behind conservation plans. In Taal two major issues that currently exists for small-scale fisherfolk is the establishment of a fish sanctuary within the lake and the possible establishment of a ‘closed season’ (ie no fishing allowed!) for tawilis. Tawilis are a freshwater sardine that are endemic to Taal Lake.
While in Taal I also had the opportunity to learn about an alternative livelihood project that is being championed by NFRDI – ornamental fish farming. While to date there has been limited uptake of this opportunity, at least in Batangas, I met with one SSF who has been able to establish a thriving small business in ornamental fishes. Unfortunately (at least for me!) this ornamental fish farmer had just sold his entire stock of fishes when we visited but I was able to tour his farm which consists of converted pig troughs as fish tanks! I call that repurposing at its finest!!
A few of the fish cages in Taal Lake
A VIP Trip to Visit Some of the Cages