Rodel Bolaños with his crab traps on his boat. San Miguel Bay, Philippines.
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iLCP Fellow Jason Houston‘s 1Frame4Nature: In September 2016, as part of an ongoing Collaboration with Rare’s global fisheries program, Fish Forever, I spent almost a month in the San Miguel Bay, Philippines. For three of those weeks I lived with Rodel Bolaños, a life-long fisherman, and his family on Caringo Island.
Rodel Bolaños lives on Caringo Island, a small community located in San Miguel Bay, in the eastern central Philippines about an hour off the mainland and completely off-the-grid. Just over 1,000 people live on the island in about 250 households, about 90% of which are registered as fishermen. Rodel moved to Caringo with his parents and 6 siblings 30 years ago, when he was 13. They left the mainland looking for a better life and he’s been fishing ever since. Today, Rodel pieces together a living for his family fishing, raising pigs, and running a small shop out of their home selling sundries as well as pig and chicken feed. Rodel is involved in Rare’s Fish Forever initiative to help improve the way the fisheries in San Miguel Bay are managed. Rodel along with others in his community will take the lead in a variety of activities including scientific monitoring and regional policy, setting up protected areas as ‘no-take’ fish sanctuaries, developing related and alternative markets, patrolling for illegal fishing activities in regional waters, and the registration of fishermen and boats to support future managed access programs.
Considered the center of global coral ecosystem biodiversity, the Philippines’ waters contain almost ten percent of the world’s coral reefs, large swaths of mangrove forests, and more Marine Protected Areas than any other country. It also sits in the middle of some of the most heavily fished waters in a critically overfished world, making it an important opportunity for understanding the threats and opportunities facing the future of our global fisheries. But it’s about people as well as nature: 91% of the fish caught in the Philippines stays in the Philippines providing 56% of the animal protein consumed by Filipinos. 1.4 million of the 1.6 million fishermen in the Philippines are small-scale and nearly half the fish caught in the Philippines are caught by these coastal fishermen. Still, in the 60 years between 1940 and 2000, the size of nearshore fishermen’s catch for the same effort has dropped by over 90%.
Call to Action: Overfishing, like most conservation concerns, is both a social and environmental issue. Recognizing this complexity and understanding that protecting the planet is about human communities and not just trees and tigers and coral reefs, can help depolarize these historically — and increasingly — divisive discussions. Assume the responsibility to understand these important issues, not just have opinions on them. Then, reach across the aisle and have an intelligent, informed conversation with someone who normally disagrees with you: Commit to finding common ground — in spite of our differences — for the sake of our common future.
This article is brought to you by the 1Frame4Nature Campaign. Share a picture and story on Instagram with the hashtag #1Frame4Nature, of your personal connection to nature and tell us what action you’ve taken on behalf of our planet.
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