Blessed with a highly diverse and productive marine ecosystem such as coral reef, mangroves, and seagrass beds, Sagay, a newly created city in the province of Negros Occidental had been famous for its lucrative fishing industry. It was an important source of livelihood for 31.6 percent of the population. The massive exploitation of these coastal and marine resources led to their degradation thus, endangering the economic base of the poor and marginalized fishers. This situation prompted the local government unit to initiate a marine conservation program in the 1970's. In August, 1995, Presidential Proclamation 592 was passed declaring 31,200 hectares of the city's territorial waters, a protected seascape. The area is popularly known as the Sagay Marine Reserve which was established to preserve and maintain a highly productive, biologically diverse, and ecologically balanced marine ecosystem through community-based management.
The marine reserve is administered by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) headed by the city mayor composed of three divisions - Resource Management, Social Development and Law Enforcement. With the leadership provided by the PAMB backed by the Bantay Dagat of the city, illegal and destructive fishing were minimized if not totally eradicated. Law enforcement was strengthened through the installation of watch tower in Carbin and Maca islands and acquisition of surveillance equipment. These protection efforts coupled with rehabilitation initiatives like mangrove reforestation created fish production and brought about the reappearance of extinct marine species. The program facilitated the formation of nine cooperatives/associations of small fishers. In addition to the conduct of training on coastal resource management, health, sanitation and values reorientation, land-based livelihood activities and sustainable fishing methods (e.g. fish traps) were undertaken thereby increasing the fisher’s income by 30 percent.
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 1997 Galing Pook Awards.