By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent

PHL’s ‘banana capital’ turns hand to marine resource conservation

Posted on May 21, 2015

PANABO CITY -- Dynamite fishing used to be rampant along the waters of Panabo City in Davao del Norte province, until the fishing community got together in 1999 and formed the City Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (CFARMC) to enforce fisheries law under Republic Act 8550.

Fisherfolk process harvest from fish cages set up along the coastal communities at the Davao Gulf with assistance from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. -- Carmencita A. Carillo
The group then tapped the known dynamite fishers in the coastal communities to become members of the Bantay Dagat (sea guardians) and serve as the enforcers of marine protection policies.

Sixteen years on, the banana capital of the Philippines continues to be strongly committed to the protection of its aquatic resources.

“There used to be many residents who practice dynamite fishing but now they are the ones that fight illegal fishing in the area,” said Fernando V. Aumentado, Chairman of CFARMC.

Illegal fishing activity in the area has declined and the number of apprehensions went down from 16 cases between 2007-2009 to only three cases from 2011-2013.

The CFARMC works closely with the local government and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region 11, a collaboration that paved the way for the establishment of the Panabo Mariculture Park.

From an initial 617 hectares, the park has been reduced to 150 hectares to allow for a bigger fishing ground and the establishment of fish cage zones that are used by the fishing community on a rotational basis.

“The Mariculture Park has provided employment and livelihood opportunities to fisherfolk and local residents who work as caretakers, cage construction and maintenance, harvesters, sorters and fish handlers,” said Dr. Dante Ventura, training center director of BFAR in Panabo.

The fishing community, with funding support and incentives from the local government, has also been at the forefront of maintaining mangrove areas which they understand serve as protection for the shoreline from typhoons, also serving as a breeding ground and nursery for marine organisms.

“Our mangroves are so extensive that it would be impossible to see the sea from the highway because the shore is covered by mangroves,” Mr. Ventura said.

At present, there are about 98 hectares of mangroves in four coastal barangays.

Mr. Aumentado, who has been fishing for eight years now using just a simple fishing rod, and managing a floating cottage, also testified on the benefits of last year’s Closed Fishing Season implemented from June to August across the Davao Gulf.

“The fishermen are now able to get more and bigger fish now compared to the years when there was no closed season,” he said.

The first Closed Fishing Season last year, which will be implemented again this year, discouraged big fishing boats from the coastal areas of Panabo City, says Mr. Aumentado, giving community fishers like himself a better harvest after the three-month period.

There are an estimated 500 registered fisherfolk in Panabo City and the list is expected to increase once BFAR finalizes the data on registrations.

In the meantime, the CFARMC is conducting an information and education campaign to encourage the fishing community to participate in the Local Reef monitoring and assessment of their Fish Sanctuary.

Mr. Aumentado said the long-term goal is to continuously rally the support of the community when it comes to coastal and marine resource protection and management.