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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

The impact of migrant fishers on sustainable development / Ulugan Bay, Palawan, Philippines.

Posted By: Rebecca Rivera-Guieb.
Date: Friday, 2 February 2001, at 8:48 a.m.

In Response To: Enforcing environmental laws: a societal approach / Philippines. (Bob Johannes - responding to Jennifer Kallie and Autalavou Taua)


The prevalence of illegal fishing is indeed a very complex social phenomenon that needs careful and thoughtful analysis. It is unfortunate that poverty is sometimes used as an excuse for the continued use of destructive fishing methods. Poverty largely influences such methods but there are a variety of other factors that account for its prevalence. The existence of institutions with their corrupt practices has been mentioned. A lack of environmental consciousness and ecological values may be another. I want to share with you, an interesting insight in the socio-economic research done in Ulugan Bay for the UNESCO-CSI/UNDP (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - platform for Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands/United Nations Development Programme) project on community-based sustainable tourism (http://www.unesco.org/csi/act/ulugan/summary_3.htm).

The residents of Ulugan Bay in Palawan Island, Philippines, have observed the effects of temporary migrant-fishers' activities on their livelihoods. Although an accurate number of these migrants has yet to be established, residents have reported that in Buenavista, 3-5 boats of migrants from the Visayas (another island in the Philippines) regularly fish in the bay every year. Each boat carries 30 fishers. These migrants fish for about 5 days and then leave, only to return again after 3 months. This pattern of operation means that these groups fish for approximately 20 days in a year. They are reportedly using compressors and cyanide. In the adjoining community of Cabayugan, about 100 fishers from the Visayas also regularly fish in the bay using cyanide. They fish for a full straight month, at least six times in a year.

It is the residents' opinion that these temporary migrants do not care about Ulugan Bay because they can always go to another area if they can no longer catch anything in the bay. These migrant fishers are also organized into groups managed by medium to large-scale fishing businesses, thus, their concern is possibly only to earn as much as they can and then move from one area to another. Their pattern of exploitation is observable but little is known of their organization, their skills and conditions. What has been observed is their apparent lack of responsibility and sense of ownership of the waters they exploit.

There are very few studies that have looked at the conditions of temporary migrant fishers. Their number is increasing as fish catches become more scarce, thus an investigation of their impacts on local fishing, their relationships with the communities they temporarily stay with, and their values and perspectives on the environment is badly needed.

Ms. Rebecca Rivera-Guieb,
Environmental Science Program,
College of Science,
University of the Philippines,
Diliman, Philippines

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