Anthropological Study on the Coastal Fisheries:

Harmonization of Present and Traditional Technologies for Sustainable Coastal Fisheries through Community-Based Coastal Resources Management (CB-CRM): The Philippine Experience

pp. 198-203 in Traditional Technology for Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Asian-Pacific Region

Proceedings of the UNESCO - University of Tsukuba International Seminar on Traditional Technology for Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Asian-Pacific Region, held in Tsukuba Science City, Japan, 11-14 December, 1995.

Editors: Kozo Ishizuka, D. Sc. , Shigeru Hisajima, D. Sc. , Darryl R.J. Macer, Ph.D.

Copyright 1996 Masters Program in Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba. Commercial rights are reserved, but this book may be reproduced for limited educational purposes. Published by the Master's Program in Environmental Science and Master's Program in Biosystem Studies, University of Tsukuba, 1996.

E.E.C. Flores
Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, PHILIPPINES


Description of Philippine coastal fishing community

As an archipelago country, communities in the Philippines grow along the coastal areas, and usually near a river. The main source of food and livelihood of these communities would be from their surrounding aquatic resources. Through the years, some communities grew to become the present day towns and cities or urban centers. With population growth, new communities are formed along the coastal areas along with old communities remaining as such through the years and still depending mainly from the surrounding aquatic resources for food and livelihood.

This paper will concentrate its presentation on these small communities which are called "barangay", the basic political unit in the Philippines, governed by a Barangay Council headed by a Barangay Captain, who together with its members are elective government officials. The coastal barangay is referred to as the fishing community with its fishers referred to as "municipal" fishermen, or small-scale fishermen. The Philippine Local Government Code defines the fishing area for municipal fishermen as that body of marine water extending 15 kilometers seaward starting from the coastline. Fishing operations with the use of fishing vessels of three gross tons or less can operate in this fishing area or municipal fishing ground.

Fish production from municipal fisheries have been increasing through the years until 1991 when production continuously decreased up to 1994. Government projections predict the municipal fisheries production up to 1998 at the 1994 level. The main causes for the decrease in municipal fisheries production are illegal fishing operation such as dynamite fishing, "muro-ami" fishing, and cyanide fishing, and overfishing as a result of growing population of fishers and number of fishing communities.

Technical Assistance to Fishing Communities

The purpose of technical assistance to fishing communities from the 50's to the 80's was to improve the catching efficiency of the municipal fishermen through the introduction of new fishing gears and synthetic fishing materials.

This has changed in the 90's when the production from the municipal fisheries decreased due to illegal fishing and overfishing. The new approach to technical assistance to fishing communities is centered on the fisherman and the aquatic resources in the municipal waters in order to bring the municipal fisheries production at sustainable levels.

Various legislation were passed in order to stop illegal fishing. However, this was not successful because of poor implementation. The government does not have the resources to implement fully the laws against illegal fishing. With the continuous growth of the fishing communities, producing more fishermen and families to support, overfishing in a limited resource still continues.

To address the above stated two-pronged problems, technical assistance is now focused on coastal resource management with the full participation of the resource users, the fishers.

Traditional Technology in Fishing Community

With the coastal communities depending on fishing for food and livelihood, fishing operations has long been developed in these communities such as hook and line, gill net, lift net, beach seine, and fish pots. Similarly the fishing vessels or "banca" with double outriggers were developed to suit the fishing operations of traditional fishing gears. The introduction of synthetic materials for fishing, replaced the traditional cotton and abaca in making the traditional fishing gears. Fishing operations were extended further from the shorelines with the motorization of the banca. A standard gasoline motor engine was fitted into the hull of the banca coupled with a shaft and a two-bladed propeller.

Trawl fishing was introduced into the fishing communities after the second world war from the United States. This type of fishing operation was modified to be operated using the banca which was called "baby trawl" because of its size compared to the standard trawl as introduced. This type of fishing operation is now banned in municipal waters as this causes overfishing.

Fishing with the use of dynamite was developed by the fishermen when gun powder was discovered in sunken war vessels in the shallow coastal waters. This type of fishing operation has stopped in areas where the fishermen were educated on its destructive nature and alternative scheme was introduced to properly utilize the resource.

Impact of Technical Assistance to Fishing Community

The continuous increase in fish production from the municipal fisheries from the 50's to the 80's should have resulted to visible improvements in the fishing communities. However, visits to these communities shows a landscape that has not changed much since the 50's. What has changed is the number of small houses and the families in the communities. The basic construction and size of houses have not changed. We still see the small one room houses made of nipa and bamboo which we commonly see in travel posters.

The technical assistance extended to fishing communities centered on how to increase fish production by improving the efficiency of fishing gears and vessels. The fisherman was not taught on how to profit most from his increased catch. The fisherman upon landing his catch usually sells his catch to middlemen or traders who takes his catch together with the catch of other fishermen to urban centers like the nearest town or city. The traders with updated information on market price dictates the price of fish caught by the fisherman. To get the patronage of the fisherman, the trader provides advance money or loans to be paid using future fish catch. The trader also sells fishing materials and supplies, and also supplies needed by the fisherman's families.

Even with the traders making most of the profit from the fish catch, the fisherman should have increased his income with the increase in fish catch volume. However, the fisherman, as we see him now, has not made proper use of his increased income when the catch was good. For him, his way of life, which is the only life he knows, is already enough for him. If the daily expense requirement for his family is say, at P100/day (US$1=P26) is met, anything in excess of the amount would be for non-essential expenses and not for investment. A very good indicator for good fish catch in a community is the consumption of alcoholic drinks. If you see fishermen drinking at nine in the morning, that shows that the catch the night before was good. So up to today, we still see rows of small houses and children running around half-naked.

The decrease in fish production starting in 1991 from municipal fisheries means that the ever growing population of municipal fishermen would not have enough income to support his daily requirement. They are now called the "poorest among the poor."

In summary, the technical assistance to fishing communities has not in any way improved the life of the fisherman and his family. It is now clear that future technical assistance to the fishing community should have as its aim to see to it that the quality of life of the fisherman be maintained and better still, improved.

Matching Traditional Technology With Present Technology

With the degradation of coastal resources, technical assistance leading to increase in catching efficiency thereby increasing the fish production in municipal fisheries should stop. Community developers have shifted their technical assistance to the conservation of coastal resources through coastal resources management (CRM) programs. As discussed earlier, legislation alone is not the answer to the conservation of coastal resources. It is, therefore, imperative that the fisherfolk, the resource users, be directly involved in CRM. This means that the fisherfolk should be the ones actively doing coastal resources conservation.

Early Work on CB-CRM

In the early 70's, a group of marine biologists from Silliman University, concerned with the destruction of marine habitat, undertook a conservation work in Sumilon Island, Cebu, Central Philippines. A marine park with a marine sanctuary and a marine reserve was established in the island in cooperation with the Municipality of Oslob, the municipality with jurisdiction over the island. The fishermen operating in the island using traditional fishing gears and banca were educated on the importance of a marine park. The fishermen were allowed to fish using traditional fishing gears such as hook and line, fish pots, and gill nets in the marine reserve. No fishing was allowed in the marine sanctuary. Working in the island for four years (1974 to 1978), the marine biologists recorded increase in the amount of fish caught by the fishermen. This, however, did not last long after the newly-elected government officials of the Municipality of Oslob allowed the fishermen to fish even in the marine sanctuary area. At first, increased harvest was recorded in the sanctuary area. But this did not last long and the fish production in the island went back to the level of production before the university marine biologist started the marine park in the island. When the municipal government changed its policy on the manner of harvesting the marine resources of the island, there were no fishermen's group or any local group to object to the move except the marine biologists from Silliman University, who had minimal influence in the local government.

The marine biologists were able to demonstrate the way to rehabilitate a degraded marine coral reef resources. However, they failed to organize a strong fishermen's association that would manage the resource once the marine biologists have finished their work.

Learning from the Sumilon Island experiences, the University in 1984 launched a two-year marine conservation and development program, an integrated program on marine conservation and community development in three islands in the Visayas, namely, Apo Island of Negros Oriental Province, Pamilacan and Balicasag Islands of Bohol Province. This program includes the participation and collaboration of the fisherfolk who were residents of the island. The direct involvement of the fisherfolk in coastal resource management is what is now called community-based coastal resource management or CB-CRM.

Community development in these islands was concentrated on the setting up of the Marine Management Committee, organization of consumer's cooperative, and the development of alternative livelihood. The Marine Management Committee is composed of fishermen chaired by the island's traditional leader fisherman.

The marine biologists from Silliman University set up a marine park in each island using the experiences gained in Sumilon Island. The participation of the barangay and municipal governments to the programs was in supporting the establishment of the marine sanctuary and reserve through the issuance of municipal ordinance.

The setting up of the marine park was done with the cooperation of the island fisherfolk with their vast knowledge of the waters around the island. The fisherfolk knew the year round movements of the waters, the coral formation and the type of fishes found therein, and the climatic conditions in the island. These information helped the marine biologists in designating the area for the marine sanctuary and marine reserve.

Knowing the destructive fishing operations, the fisherfolk insisted that only traditional fishing operations be allowed in the marine reserve. Spear fishing, which is common in Balicasag Island, but only with the use of snorkels was allowed. Tourists visiting the area were not allowed to do spear fishing with the aid of scuba.

Since the fisherfolk of the island were the ones managing their coastal resources, it would be natural for them to limit the fishing operation to themselves. However, they allowed fisherfolk from neighboring islands to operate in their waters provided they limit their fishing operations to what is allowed. When asked why they would allow neighboring fisherfolk to fish in their waters, the response was that these fisherfolk have been fishing in their waters for generations. In other words, these neighboring fisherfolk are also traditional fishers in the island. To this attitude, the marine biologist did not show any objections.

A consumers cooperative was successfully organized in Apo Island which provide cheap source of supplies needed by the fisherfolk for their fishing operation and household needs. Weaving of sleeping mats was introduced in the island which was done by the women and provided additional income for the fisherfolk family. Their products, including the fish catch were sold by selected members of the community in the Municipality of Dawin, an hour's boat ride, in the main island of Negros.

In Pamilacan Island, the marine park concept did not at first catch the attention of the island fisherfolk because the type of fishing operation using hook and line was for pelagic fish far from the coral reef areas of the island. However, after knowing that a rich coral reef would attract tourists to their island, they become interested. Now, their island is also a favorite tourist dive area.

The success stories coming from the program spread throughout the Visayas. Now these islands, especially Apo Island, are favorite sites for cross visits by fisherfolk from other CB-CRM projects.

CB-CRM Matching Traditional Technology with Present Technology

There are about 105 CB-CRM projects implemented in the Philippines, out of which 40% are situated in the Visayas. The degree of fisherfolk participation in these CB-CRM projects depends on the participating institution. The degree of fisherfolk participation is a measure of utilization of traditional technology in CB-CRM.

Just recently, a "Nation-Wide Festival Workshop on Community-Based Coastal Resources Management" was conducted inviting implementors of CB-CRM projects throughout the Philippines. The meeting was organized to allow exchange of experiences among CB-CRM implementors and discuss problems encountered in respective projects.

It was gathered during the meeting that projects covering a wide area, like the CB-CRM for three bays in Leyte Island (Carigara Bay, San Pedro Bay and Ormoc Bay) did not allow the gathering of in depth knowledge of the communities served. The CB-CRM for the three bays covered 82 barangays as opposed to the CB-CRM of the three islands mentioned earlier which had only one barangay for each island. The CB-CRM of the three bays is part of a national government project covering 12 bays nationwide. This CB-CRM is a component of the Fisheries Sector Program (FSP) of the Department of Agriculture which started in 1989 and funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) of Japan. As such, the FSP before involving the fishing communities already had preset community target levels and inadequate appraisal of community level activities.

The FSP already had programmed the setting up of the following organizations in the communities: the Fisherman's Association, the Barangay Coastal Resources Management Councils, and the Municipal Coastal Resources Management Councils. These councils are tasked to propose policies to the barangay and municipal local governments units on matters related to coastal resources management. These preset organizations do not consider the individual characteristics of barangays which may not require all of the above stated organizations. This was clearly demonstrated with the barangays of an urban community, Tacloban City. There were few fishermen there!

When a development project is introduced to a community with preset community target levels as illustrated in the set of organizations to be established, the fisherfolk at the very onset of the projects feel alien to it. They were not part of project conceptualization and formulation. This does not give the fisherfolk a sense of "ownership" of the project. Ironically, the project was formulated by the government for the benefit of the fisherfolk.

In contrast, the Silliman University CB-CRM had the community fisherfolk involved in the formulation and implementation of the project. The Silliman University group entered the community with only the concept of a marine park to be managed by the fisherfolk. The details on how the project was going to be formulated and implemented was done with the full involvement of the target group, the fisherfolk. This approach gave the fisherfolk a sense of belonging. In this atmosphere, the fisherfolk opens himself to the project allowing free flow of information between the marine biologist and the fisherfolk.

Similar approach is being adopted by other academic institutions and non-government organizations in the Philippines. To cite as an example is the Malalison Island CB-CRM initiated by a research and development institution, the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC/AQD).

Before the project formally started a group of scientist from SEAFDEC/AQD composed of aqua-culturists, marine biologists and socio-economists surveyed the island for one year to gather baseline information and in the process got acquainted with the local fisherfolk. The survey provided baseline information on the state and nature of the islands' coastal resources and the structure and composition of the fishing community. Interaction with the community allowed the airing of priority issues identified by the fishermen.

The baseline information provides the implementors the necessary tool to develop a meaningful organizing plan with clear goals which were aimed to address issues by empowering the individual fisherfolk collectively through their organization for them to possess the capacity to manage their own resources at sustainable levels. The organization shall be the vehicle for collective initiative among fisherfolk for the development of their community.

The Malalison CB-CRM project formally started with involvement of the multidisciplinary group scientist from SEAFDEC/AQD, a non-government organization (NGO), and a group of fisherfolk. An NGO was contracted by SEAFDEC/AQD to undertake community organizing and institutionalization. The community has two group of fisherfolk, those using fishing nets and those using hook and line. The fishing net fishers did not at first join the project because they were operating a banned fishing gear, the "muro-ami." Together, the three groups formulated the project plans and programs.

The first main activity of the projects is community organizing. Community organizing is facilitated when the community developers possess information on the traditional way the community is organized or how they are grouped together to perform a task or set of tasks. Political organization in a community is not traditional as this is introduced by the national government and whose structure changes with national government policies. The basic political unit in the Philippines is the "barrio" which was changed into the "barangay" and so with its composition and lately, its functions and powers with the passing of the Local Government Code.

Traditional community organization is discovered in a community through long immersion and this happens while collecting baseline information on the community. At the Malalison CB-CRM project, similar to the Balicasag CB-CRM, it was observed that the traditional leader of the fishing community is the person with the best fishing skills and was made the leader, not by election, but by consensus, as far as fishing activities of the community were concerned. Since there are two groups of fisherfolk in Malalison, each group had its own leader.

The Malalison CB-CRM project component on organizing and institution building was conceptualized and implemented with a time frame of three to four years. It has four major components, namely, community organizing, capability and skills building, process documentation, and alternative economic self-reliance activities. The Fishermen's Association of Malalison Island (FAMI) was organized composed at the start of the hook and line fishers group and later joined by net fishers group after realizing the importance of the project to the community and the required full participation of all the fishers in the island for the success of the project.

To rehabilitate the island's aquatic resources, the Malalison CB-CRM introduced the marine park concept using the technique developed by Silliman University with the full participation of the fisherfolk. Added to this, the Malalison CB-CRM introduced the construction and establishment of artificial reefs or ARs. The purpose of the AR is to hasten the formation of new aquatic communities in areas where coral reefs were once present and now completely destroyed by dynamite fishing. Care was taken that these ARs were not mistaken as fish aggregating devices or a fish shelter.

A common traditional fishing operation in the Philippines involves the setting up of a fish shelter in the shallow portions of the shore using piles of stones. When small fishes are seen in these piles of stones, the area is surrounded by a net after which the stones are removed and all the fishes found therein are harvested. The AR deployed concrete blocks, to the fisherfolk, resemble the pile of stones they use in their traditional fishing operation. Seminars had to be conducted to make the fisherfolk fully aware as to what the ARs are for and how they can profit from it with proper management.

So that in the future the fisherfolk can establish more ARs, they were involved in the construction and deployment of the concrete blocks. The units of concrete block were so designed that they could be made locally (importing only the cement powder) and transported to the site using local material (bamboo poles for rafts). The marine biologists from SEAFDEC/AQD demonstrated the setting up of the concrete block at the site using scuba. They were soon joined by the fisherfolk using their locally developed underwater device called "compressor." This is a local adaptation of the scuba using an ordinary air compressor on board a banca with plastic hose tied to the waist of the fisherman who bites the open end of the hose as he dives into the water.

Future Directions in Community Development through CB-CRM

Direct introduction of modern technologies or techniques such as the coastal resource management to traditional societies like the fishing communities would not gain a strong foothold in the community unless traditional technologies and indigenous knowledge are incorporated or taken into serious considerations. This requires the sharing of skills by both the community developers and the target benefactors or the fisherfolk as in the case in fishing communities. This sharing of skills was clearly demonstrated in both the CB-CRMs conducted by Silliman University and SEAFDEC/AQD.

Instead of preset plans and programs, the community developer should have an open mind as he sets foot in the community and considers the utilization of traditional technologies and indigenous knowledge available in developing action plans. This was clearly demonstrated in the use of traditional community organization or grouping in structuring community organizing for the Malalison CB-CRM. Again, traditional fishing operations were encouraged over more effective modern fishing operations as a measure to control overfishing, a tool for coastal fishery resource management. Furthermore, new technologies introduced in the community are modified to suit local conditions as in the case of the introduction of artificial reefs in Malalison Island.

The CB-CRM, when properly applied should lead to the rehabilitation of the resources of the community resulting in sustainable production. This improvement is then translated to increased income of the fisherfolk to a level before the degradation of resources. This brings us back to the situations to two to three decades ago when the fisherfolk had more than what he needed for his day-to-day existence. And if the situation is not changed with his regained wealth, the excess income would again not be utilized to his advantage. With this repeat scenario, what we would have again after going through all the efforts or inputs would only be restoration of the coastal resources and we will still see rows of small houses and more children running around half-naked.

What then should be incorporated in the CB-CRM in order to prevent the repeat scenario? From the point of view of a natural scientist, he would simply say, teach the fisherfolk on how to invest his extra earning on something worthwhile like saving for the education of his children. But the social scientist would say it is not that simple. An in-depth study on the fisherfolk's concept of life should be looked into. Let us, for the sake of discussing the issue, focus on the children.

The fisher thinks of the children as future help to the family's work. This prepares the child to be a good fisher and become one when he grows up and supports his family the same way his parents did. But with the limited resource, this cannot go on and on. The children will have to be educated so as to lead them to other professions which may mean the migration of the next generation to other places. Which would lead to the problem of lack of fishermen in the future. This is now being experienced by developed countries where there is shortage of labor force to man their fishing vessels or where there are only old people farming their land. This should be an important issue where both natural and social scientists of both developed and developing countries can work together to prevent another repeat scenario.

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