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Opinion

Community fishing

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

For the record, I am not a fish lover; however, I consider myself a lover of sea and sand. Having grown up with my family and spending most of our summers at the beach, eventually, and considering that my Spanish roots bring me back to a life by the sea, I saw a different view of such a life from the perspective of sustainable living and preservation of our planet. Especially in the middle of a pandemic, I watched how many of my friends were deeply involved in educating communities around the area on marine life and how certain practices needed to be developed in order to ensure not only the survival of their families but also the development of their community for the benefit of the future generations.

For the record, I have always been very interested in exploring new ideas as a result of the practice of lifelong learning as, after all, educators are supposed to be open to such a process. Having said this, one of the few things that had a huge impact on my observation of sea life was how much of fishing was done on a daily basis and how much access locals had to it. Not to mention the capability of fishermen to actually catch a sufficient amount of fish, making it possible for them to survive their day-to-day activities and make a good living.

Based on my humble observations, some fishermen were more productive than others because of their ability to navigate and – believe it or not – their ability to swim. As an honorary Navy Seal, at some point, my team and I even ventured into giving survival lessons to help communities in order to mitigate incidents of drowning.

In addition to all of these things, I was also very curious about the local community’s knowledge of marine life where sadly, some local officials were not even aware of conservation practices, specifically because in the first place, they had never even seen it, since they had no water skills whatsoever. Of course, I was rather surprised by this, considering that the community they serve mostly belong to the blue economy, since fishing was the main source of income.

Hence this is why eventually, we thought of how to establish some kind of community fishing and environmental initiative in order to help people out. It’s easier said than done to be quite frank, but I was happy to see that for the past year, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has taken efforts to complete the Municipal Fisherfolk Registry of coastal LGUs nationwide. For someone such as myself who has taken notice of a few incidents in a span of a year or so, I am pleased to see this effort as it is responding to some very important issues that affect our fisherfolk.

It is also worth mentioning that while community fishing matters in sustaining communities, commercial fishing is also an integral component to the overall ecosystem. Community fishing is so important because it serves as the foundation of food security and at the same time, fisherfolk are able to participate in management measures that will allow their communities to thrive. For example, and from my own point of view, the initiative of the BFAR is designed to provide sufficient data that will enable communities to conserve their resources and to provide the best possible access to diverse opportunities for sustainable growth.

While my own experience questioned a few things about development in this regard, the BFAR is creating measures that will enable people in their respective communities to register and participate in a program that seeks to enhance and improve the lives of everyone who is involved in this industry – whether it be fishermen, commercial fishing crew and even fish operators.

I suppose I can properly say that this somewhat gives answers to my short stint in fishing expeditions but surely, as part of civil society, I saw the relevance of the necessary element of education in this sector due to the collective impact it has on society as a whole. Climate change is having a major effect on our oceans and marine life and, considering that almost 40 percent of the world’s population lives in coastal communities, we have to pay some good attention.

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