Dynamite and cyanide fishing has been the top two of the most efficient but destructive fishing methods (not to mention illegal) that plague the fishing industry. Although these methods result in a huge volume of fish catch, it leaves both fish and fisherman without any future to look forward to.
The destructive fishing methods took a toll on the coastal village of Ambao in Southern Leyte. The decrease in fish catch resulted in decreased incomes for the fisher folk. This compelled their children to drop out of schools in order to work and for the women to seek employment as housemaids in the urban areas. The encroachment of fishermen from neighboring municipalities exacerbated the problem of dwindling volumes of fish catch.
With the help of concerned barangay officials and the assistance of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the community proceeded to implement a community-based Coastal Fisheries Resource Management (CFRM) program in April 2000. This entailed the establishment of a 32.5-hectare Marine Reserve Area (MRA) off the coast of Ambao. Opportunities for alternative livelihood through food processing and planting high value crops were provided to fishing families directly affected by the marine reserve. The men were trained as farmers, while the mothers were trained in dressmaking and cosmetology. These livelihoods helped the fishing community cope and also helped boost the local economy of Ambao.
Fifteen years later, the CFRM program led to an increase in the coral coverage of the marine reserve from 10% to 95%. This resulted in an increase in the size of fish and up to 10 times more catch. These resulted in the reduction of families migrating out of Ambao, an increase in the enrollment rate in the nearby schools, and enabled mothers to stay home with their families. The Ambao Fish Sanctuary now serves as a pilot area for the program on Enhancing Management Effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas.
What’s notable about the success of this program was the active participation of the coastal communities in the implementation and maintenance of the program. Recently, a Fish Sanctuary Management Committee (FSMC) was created to manage the MPA with the representatives of the community, fisher folk, barangay council and employees, Office of the Municipal Agriculturist Services (OMAS), and Municipal Law Enforcement Team (MFLET) members who reside in the barangay. The committee ensures that best practices are continually pursued by the various stakeholders in the community. With an allocated budget coming from the barangay and a strong voluntary participation by the local community that is driven to preserve and to protect their main source of living, the sustainability of the CFRM program is ensured.