Pinoy-Made Vessel Monitoring System More Affordable for Fishermen

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Vessel Monitoring Device (Candeze Mongaya & Oceana)Press Announcement:

Proper vessel monitoring can save lives and make fishing more sustainable.

Seven sailors drowned when a Filipino merchant ship crashed into the USS Fitzgerald in the Sea of Japan last 17 June.  Last 21 August, the USS John McCain crashed into a commercial tanker near Singapore, leaving 10 dead.

For safety and fisheries transparency, all Philippine commercial fishing vessels must comply with the Amended Fisheries Code by installing AIS or other Vessel Monitoring Measures (VMM) by 2020, larger vessels having started AIS installation since 2015

The European Union estimates that about 26 million tonnes of seafood – 15% of global yields – are caught via Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The Philippines was issued a yellow card in June 2014 for previously failing to curb IUU fishing, serving to warn the country that unless it addressed IUU fishing, its seafood products would be banned in Europe, our biggest market for fish and fish products.



Amended Fisheries Code Clarified by Oceana

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Oceana Fisheries PrimerPrimer<> serves as a simple guide for fishers, local government units and the general public to understand and follow the amended Fisheries Code

Press Update:
The Philippine Fisheries Code (Republic Act 8550) was amended on 27 February 2015 by RA 10654, providing higher penalties while mandating better monitoring systems to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Top marine conservation group Oceana Philippines recently launched a simple primer on RA 10654 in Cebu City. The handy, notebook-sized booklet is meant to serve as a simple guide for fishers and private institutions to better understand the amended Fisheries Code, while helping government agencies enforce the law and empowering citizens to know their rights.

“The amended code is a Godsend for the fisheries sector – but understanding a set of complicated rules might not be easy for all. To address this, we created printed and downloadable primers. We hope this makes the implementation of the amended Fisheries Code faster,” shares Oceana Philippines Vice-President Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos.


Fiberglass Bancas Increase Supplies, Jobs, Forest Life

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Keeping Hope Afloat (Toni Munar &amp; WWF)

Press Update:

The waves that once roared and ripped into the coastal community of New Washington, Aklan are calm today. Before daybreak, small-scale fishers boldly cast their nets into the very waters they used to fear.

New Washington is among the localities that suffered the brunt of typhoon Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded. Haiyan claimed 7200 lives, displaced millions of families, and left economic damage worth PHP 500 Billion. The storm also destroyed the wooden bancas of about 146,700 small-scale fishers.

Erma Repedro and her family survived the Category-5 storm but her husband continued heading out to sea using his damaged boat – braving unpredictable and sometimes turbulent waters.


WWF Philippine Bancas Re-Engineered For a Climate-defined Future

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Bancas for the Philippines - Leyte trainingBy Sophia Dedace and Gregg Yan
Boats connect islands, spread culture, and allow people to harvest the sea’s bounty. A boat for a fisherman, is what a carabao is for a farmer – a beast of burden, a source of income, a ride home. So has it been for thousands of years. As the world’s second largest archipelago with 36,289 kilometers of coastline, the Philippines is home to sons and daughters of the sea whose lives are inextricably linked to the water.

Among the indigenous watercraft our mariners have used to ply our seas, no boat is as familiar and well-loved as the Philippine banca, a durable double-outrigger canoe. “It is a perfect design, honed through thousands of years of trial and error,” says naval architect and indigenous watercraft expert Ramon Binamira, Jr.

Fisheries provide livelihood to about one million Filipinos, or about 5% of the country’s labor force.

Fish consumption in the Philippines is also high at 28.5 kilograms per capita yearly. Fish comprise about half of Filipinos’ protein diet.

Unfortunately, Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), which ripped through the Central Philippines on 8 November 2013, destroyed some 30,000 bancas – depriving 146,700 small-scale fisherfolk of their main source of food and livelihood. With more than 40% of our small-scale fishers living below the poverty line, it is imperative that long-term, climate-smart solutions be introduced to boost their adaptive capacity.

Shaping New Platforms for Resilience

We face a climate-defined future, where extreme weather events packing Haiyan’s strength and fury will be the new normal. More storms will come. More boats will be damaged.

In the storm’s aftermath in November last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) created the blueprint for Bancas for the Philippines to restore food security among local fisherfolk and establish resilience in coastal communities that stand vulnerable to climate change impacts.

To veer away from band-aid solutions and dole-outs, the program teaches fishermen who lost their boats how to build their own fibreglass bancas and replicate boat moulds for future use, for succeeding generations.

Since its launch in February 2014, Bancas for the Philippines has completed the training of local fishermen and boat builders from at least eight population nodes in Leyte and Northern Palawan for the production of 600 fibreglass boats.

The fishermen and boat-builders, who received training for a week, can then transfer their knowledge and skills to fellow mariners in their coastal communities. Key resources like boat moulds, tools, and training modules are provided to sustain the building of fibreglass bancas for the long term.

“Bancas for the Philippines went beyond physical re-engineering. In a sense, it involved re-booting social software. This project is about building skills, creating opportunities, and crafting new platforms for resilience,” says WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan.

Boat of the Future

Days before Haiyan barreled through Samar to Northern Palawan, Binamira knew that small-scale fishermen will be among the sectors that will be hit the hardest. “Just looking at the swath, I immediately knew that thousands of small boats would be destroyed.” Binamira’s extensive body of work in naval architecture includes two decades of boat-making in Bohol.

“Fibreglass boats are faster, cheaper, and easier to make,” explains Binamira, who designed the Bancas for the Philippines standard boat model, which is 15 feet long and 14 inches wide, weighing approximately 30 kilograms. Easily lifted by one to two fishers, the fibreglass banca can swiftly be hauled inland for safekeeping whenever a super-typhoon approaches a coastal community.

While aware of the challenges of helping fishermen get back on their feet, Binamira and WWF-Philippines also saw Haiyan’s destruction as an opportunity to introduce a climate-smart alternative to build bancas for artisanal fisherfolk. “Fibreglass is now widely available, relatively cheap, and easy to build boats from,” Binamira adds.

Fibreglass has been used as a boatbuilding material in North America since the late 1940s. In the Philippines, fibreglass has been available for over 50 years. Because they are watertight, fibreglass boats prevent leaks and reduce maintenance. Unlike their wooden counterparts, fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) hulls are one continuous piece, preventing water from seeping in.

When laid up in the sun, fibreglass boats do not shrink. In contrast, wooden hulls shrink or swell when brought out of the water and laid up. Because fibreglass is non-organic, the boats become rot-proof and resistant to shipworms and other marine borers. Provided that they are cared for properly, fibreglass boats last longer than wooden bancas. Binamira estimates that the boat’s fibreglass hull is at least thrice more puncture-resistant than one with an 8 to 10 millimeter wooden frame.

Benjamin Pedrero, a Taclobanon who lost his home, his boat, plus about 30 relatives to Haiyan – shares, “My wooden boats last for only two to three years. Now that I am building my own fibreglass boat, I am more than thankful because this can probably last me 20 years – even a lifetime.”

He adds that building a traditional wooden boat takes 10 to 20 days on average, while a fibreglass boat only takes about one to two days.

Amador Linde is among the Leyte-based fishermen who joined Pedrero at an onsite training session on fibreglass boat-making last May. He shares that a sturdier banca made of fibreglass allows him to weather tougher storms ahead. “After the storm, I immediately looked for scrap plywood to make my own boat and get back in the water. But I know that this is only a temporary solution. I will need a stronger banca so I can be assured that I can feed my family every day.”

He adds that a fibreglass banca will afford him food and livelihood security.  “I have been fishing in the waters of Palo with my father since I was nine. I belong to the sea. Working on land is hard because I report to an employer. At sea, I am my own boss.”

The boats of the future, fibreglass bancas allow for simpler and more efficient construction through open-access technology. One mold can be used to make at least 20 banca hulls. The trainees will also learn how to make new moulds in order to sustain fibreglass boat-making in their communities.

For these reasons, Bancas for the Philippines offers a platform to make a climate-smart technology – mass-based. In turn, more fishermen boost their resilience, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency.

Safeguarding our Natural Resources

More importantly, fibreglass boats also help protect our fragile forest and marine ecosystems.

The Philippines loses about 157,000 hectares of forest cover each year. To rebuild the 30,000 boats lost to Haiyan from wood threatens to upscale deforestation. A fibreglass banca will curb the country’s dependence on wood as a major boatbuilding component.

With Philippine seas already overexploited by commercial fishing, the initiative helps reduce pressure on our dwindling fishing stocks by promoting artisanal and small-scale fishing.

“Our goal is to meld the old with the new – modernizing the way we build a boat whose design was already refined by generations of fishers,” concludes Binamira. “Bancas for the Philippines empowers our coastal communities to weather the storms of the future.”