May 2, 2010 Featured Article Read More →

Filipino Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

LOL – Lauren on Location – Filipino MPA’s

The recent Marine Bills which have been passed in the UK led to an interest in finding out about Marine Protected Areas that have been set up in the Philippines, many thanks to Helen King who took the time to provide me with following overview:

Filipino Fishing Techniques:-

Hooka – Compressor fishing, the compressor sits on the boat / shoreline and connects to a long hose (up to 60m), this allows the diver to stay down for up to 2 hours at a time. Areas are totally cleared of all target species such as large fish like Groupers or Lobsters. Very bad for the health of the fishermen, which when older begin to show signs of lung disease. This is an illegal method, but is still used.

Muro Ami – Fishermen use rocks to bang the reef to scare the fish and to corral them into nets, they also drag the rocks. Extremely destructive, often the children aid in this, again it is an illegal method but is still used.

Dynamite – Obviously devastatingly destructive, dynamite blasts kill and stun the fish for harvesting, evidence is all around including fishermen with missing limbs and the detonations you can hear when SCUBA diving.

Hook and Line – The best method, but because it takes longer and there is a lower yield it is not a popular technique.

Long-lining – Fishermen set-out hundreds of hooks, for target species. Very wasteful with large numbers of by-catch species.

Net Fishing – Net hole regulations are in place, requiring fishermen to have holes of a specific size allowing smaller fish to pass through, however many fishermen will double or even triple net, the larger holed nets will be on the outside but nets with smaller holes in the inside, trapping all sizes of fish.

Cyanide – This is squirted into crevices to stun the fish, too easy to get the quantities wrong so the fish are poisoned and this ends up in the food stream. This is also used to capture fish for the aquarium trade.

Trawl Fishing – Rocks are attached to the base of nets and dragged along the bottom / reef. Extremely destructive.

In the Philippines fish provides 50% of the protein within the diet.

Benefits of Marine Reserves:-

  • Protection of spawning stock biomass
  • Provision of a recruitment source for surrounding areas
  • Supplemental re-stocking of fished areas through emigration
  • Maintenance of natural population age structure
  • Maintenance of undisturbed habitat
  • Protection of intraspecific genetic diversity (larger gene pool for long term species survival)
  • Insurance against management failures in fished areas
  • Reduce data collection needs
  • Simplified enforcement
  • Ease of public understanding and acceptance of management

Management Approaches:-

  • Zoning areas for specific practices, this can be awkward fishermen can say they’re confused (hard to see boundaries)
  • Closure during valuable times e.g.: breeding of certain species, again mistakes by fishermen can occur some are genuine others are on purpose
  • Alternating periods of use e.g.: allow fishing for a year then close, but fish stocks can take a long time to recover and again people don’t understand if you say yes you can fish and then no you can’t.
  • Permitted level of use, difficult to monitor every fisherman
  • Size limits for catch – will fishermen stick to this? Again difficult to monitor
  • Prohibit / limit equipment and methods, and again difficult to monitor

So the only effective management approaches have been to permanently close an area, although this can be initially more difficult to be explain and to be accepted, this is the best option as the rules are fixed and thus is easier to monitor

The MPA selection process is very important, areas are accessed for coral cover, target species (e.g.: lobster), number of invertebrates and fish. Diversity of the coral is considered, and nutrient run-off from land is examined.

Once the MPA is established it will be popular with divers so mooring buoys are put in, this is better than anchors being dropped all over the reef and causing coral damage. The divers also add to the income by paying a fee to dive within the MPA, this currently stands at 100 pesos per diver (approx £1.60) but many divers would pay much more.

MPA Layout:-

There is a central no take zone and then around this there is a buffer zone, where limited hook and line fishing is allowed to take place, the Bantay Dagat (literally meaning Guardian of the Sea) patrol this area. The fishermen are more likely to respect the MPA if they are allowed this are and as the fish get larger and stock sizes increase they spill over from the MPA to the buffer zone, the fishermen will notice this and will understand the MPA is working.

MPA is not a quick solution, 2-3 years is the minimum for fishermen to begin to see fish in the buffer zone, it is extremely important the fishermen understand this. In time the fish will spill out of the buffer zone where any legal fishing can occur.

MPA Fees:-

Fees can differ but in Southern Leyte 20 % goes to the Bantay Dagat for wages

20% goes to the LGU (Local Government Unit) which helps to assist the MPA establishment and subsequent running.

60 % goes to the Barangay note: it is important to setup an MPA council with only 2 members of the Barangay council on. The MPA council employ the Bantay Dagat and make sure the MPA is working, the Barangay council spend the money which is raised by the MPA, but it is monitored by the MPA council and have to show and justify where spending the spending has gone. In turn the Barangay council monitors the MPA council and can ask for progress reports etc…

Social Implications of MPAs:-

Local fishermen have to be on board for the MPA to be a success, to enable this they have to understand this is a long term process, so development of alternate livelihoods is key. So while the MPA is being established things such as craft making is encouraged – jewellery, bowls, wind chimes etc are made out of coconuts and sold to tourists, home gardening is encourage enabling more self sustainability, and local fishermen are employed as Bantay Dagats.

The emphasis is placed on “you are doing this for your children and your children’s children” as the family and community are incredibly important. There is absolutely no point in setting up an MPA without a strong information campaign.

A couple of examples:-

Apo Island, MPA first established in 1982-1986, 11 hectare MPA after 18 years there was a 12 fold increase of large predatory fish outside of the MPA, catch rate increased and fishing effort decreased, massively community based, everyone was involved and as a result it was a huge success.

In contrast Sumilon Island was established in 1974, in 1984 there was a breakdown of management, people thought the fish stocks and reef had recovered, from 1986-2001 the management was unsustainable. From 1974-1984 the average increase in fish yield per year was from 9.7 to 16.8, this reduced to 11.2 from 1984-1986 and from 1986-2001 had gone down to 10.1 and all the live coral had been reduced to rubble.

In conclusion when managed properly and when this management is based on a strong information campaign Marine Protected Areas around the Philippines work and seem the only guaranteed option to preserve the health of the reefs for local communities and visiting divers alike.

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