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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Management approaches to reduce the negative impact of migrant fishers.

Posted By: Alan White, Hugh Trudeau, Gerry Davis, Faatoia Malele, Pedro Bueno.
Date: Thursday, 20 September 2001, at 11:39 a.m.

In Response To: The impact of migrant fishers on sustainable development / Ulugan Bay, Palawan, Philippines. (Rebecca Rivera-Guieb.)


Several authors from Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands responded to the contribution by Rebecca Rivera-Guieb on the impact of migrant fishers on the resources of Ulugan Bay, Palawan, Philippines (http://csiwisepractices.org/?read=330). Suggested solutions to the problem included an improved permitting process (Alan White, Philippines) and better enforcement (Hugh Trudeau, Philippines); community education and local control of resource exploitation (Gerry Davis, Guam); a combination of education, stakeholder control and enforcement (Faatoia Malele, Samoa and Pedro Bueno, Thailand). Their responses are found below.

This is a growing problem in the Philippines where organized fishing groups, mostly coming from the Central Visayas (Cebu Island and vicinity) area are travelling to Palawan and more remote areas to fish for months at a time. Evidence suggests that their regard for the impact of their fishing methods on the environment is minimal, and as noted in Ms. Guieb's contribution, they can always move on to another area if they are not allowed to return. In fact, some of the more progressive municipal mayors and town councils in the Central Visayas area, who are concerned about their own coastal resources and environment, are actively preventing these fishing groups from entering their waters. In the Philippines now, under the Local Government Code, municipal and city governments may require permits for any fishers who enter their waters up to 15 km offshore. Although this code is not widely implemented, it has much potential to slow the movement of unscrupulous fishers around the country. I suggest that a possible solution for this problem would be for the City of Puerto Princesa, which has jurisdiction over Ulugan Bay, to consider being stricter with permitting and allowing outside fishers into their area.

Mr. Alan White,
Deputy Chief of Party, Coastal Resource Management Project,
Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines.


Ms. Guieb's observations on the impacts of migrant fishers in places like Ulugan Bay are valid for most areas in the Philippines, and elsewhere in the world I suspect, where there are still fish populations to exploit. The obvious reasons for such activities are that fishing regions closer to home have already been destroyed or over-fished. I feel, however, that the emphasis on this practice of migrating fisher folk, as well as other issues like destructive fishing methods, although valid, is avoiding the real issue - namely enforcement. In this respect I would like to advocate the currently running Fisheries Resource Management Project, which is trying to put the management of fisheries and particularly the enforcement role on a professional basis (for further information on this approach, see http://csiwisepractices.org/?read=363).

Mr. Hugh Trudeau,
Fisheries Licensing Consultant,
Quezon City, Philippines


In Guam five permanent marine reserves have been established that comprise more than 11% of the coastline. The whole process of holding hearings and obtaining public input took more than 14 years. A ten-year database was available to accurately document the reef fish harvest and stock declines and this was very helpful. However, I feel the same results could have been obtained without the database because the fishermen had already seen the declines. While hindsight is always easy, I only hope that others do not make the same mistake. Other countries, e.g. Palau, have found that they do not need elaborate databases as long as the community understands and directs the process.

Mr. Gerry Davis,
Chief, Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, Department of Agriculture,


In Samoa we also have problems with irresponsible fishing practices. These include dynamiting, chemicals (bleach, weedkillers), under-sized catches and over-fishing. It has taken a long time, but we have some comprehensive legislation, and through extensive awareness and public education, we are working with our coastal communities to eliminate these unwise practices.

Mr. Faatoia Malele,
Samoa Meteorological Services,
Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology,


Ms. Guieb's findings paint a dismal picture of wanton and irresponsible degradation. Similar resource degradation can be seen in forests, and in resources such as gravel and sand. I agree poverty is not the cause. In fact her findings seem to point to more powerful and organised people as the cause. The migrant fishers are themselves poor, and most probably working for wealthy entrepreneurs or capitalists. In which case, the fishers themselves should not be faulted for their incursions and irresponsible fishing activities. The practical question then is how can 'ripping-off' natural resources be prevented? While the question may be simple, the issues are enormously complex. To start with, a fishing ground in a fairly remote area like Ulugan Bay presents a difficult law-enforcement situation. Ms. Guieb suggests examining the migrant fishers' values and perspectives towards the environment. While I agree this is useful, I doubt it has practical, immediate value in preventing further incursions into the fishing grounds. Apparently the migrant fishers have no sense of stewardship towards those fishing grounds distant from their own localities; they have probably already over-fished the waters in their own localities. There are known cases where local measures that combine education, strict enforcement, local participation in enforcing laws, declaration and enforcement of community ordinances, scientific resource management, and conservation measures have shown some success. I hope that Ms. Guieb and her colleagues can find sustainable solutions, beyond studies and more studies, which are not in themselves solutions.

Mr. Pedro Bueno,
Head, Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific,
Bangkok, Thailand.

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