Dwindling Fish Catch
In 1995, illegal fishing was rambling within the municipal waters of Lanuza. Liba-liba (a locally-known method of commercial fishing) and dynamite fishing were two of the few destructive methods rampant in the area, which caused the low fish catch among local fisherfolks.
To address this issue, the local government unit (LGU) launched the Lanuza Sagip Karagatan Program in the same year, and in the midst of the dialogues conducted with commercial fish owners, the Lanuza LGU floated the idea of declaring a marine reserve. This, however, was opposed by many locals.
Efforts for the protection of Lanuza waters persisted, nonetheless. In 1998, a coastal resource assessment was conducted through the assistance of Volunteer Service Organization. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Provincial Fishery Office also administered a survey that served as a basis of coverage of the marine park sanctuary. Finally, after four years of ground work and lobbying, the Lanuza Marine Park Sanctuary was officially established on July 27, 2002 under Ordinance No. 9.
Of the 8,948-hectare municipal waters of Lanuza, 111 hectares was declared protected. The no-take zone is composed of 53 hectares while the buffer zone is 58 hectares. There are at least 400 small fisherfolks dependent on fishing for their livelihood.
Through the said ordinance and coordination with the Philippine National Police, the LGU employed Bantay Dagat to enforce a 24-hour fishery law enforcement and seaborne patrolling. It now regularly conducts fish catch monitoring by tasking at least 100 Lanuza fisherfolks to list down the details of fish catch including the species of fish, number of kilos, location, and the method of fishing they used. The Lanuza LGU spends approximately Php 1M annually for the marine protected area (MPA) management costs including enforcement, capacity building for the partner people’s organization (PO), and other logistical needs to sustain protection of the sanctuary.
The establishment of the protected area and strict law enforcement have since borne fruits with coral reefs reportedly starting to recover.
Social Enterprise for MPA Management
The Lanuza government unit saw the necessity of involving locals in the protection of natural resources. Specifically included in Ordinance no. 9 is the LGU co-management of the sanctuary with a community-based organization. In 2002, the Kapunungang Lanuza hong Mananagat (Association of Fisherfolks) was formed, gathering members from the six coastal communities. The Kapunungan had a good start managing the sanctuary until a faction surfaced – some members of the organization wanted to continue the protection in the area, while some members had vested interest in the sanctuary. Consequently, the management of the Lanuza Marine Park Sanctuary was handed back to the LGU in 2007.
After almost four years, the LGU resolved to organizing and empowering another PO that could manage the sanctuary. This led to the establishment of the NURSIHA Enforcement Team (abbreviation of three coastal communities: Nurcia, Sibahay, and Habag) in September 2011.
The NURSIHA became one of the most active POs in Lanuza Bay, participating in and supporting the *SMARTSeas PH Project. Eleazar Ortuyo, Chairman of NURSIHA, said that aside from the capacity building program organized by the LGU, they also benefit from the technical assistance being provided by the Project.
“In 2016, we attended a business and financial planning workshop. We understand that the LGU’s capacity to provide us funds for the MPA will vary depending on the leadership of the municipality. The profit from the sanctuary café is also not enough to fund the operation and enforcement. So, we need to have our own sustainable source of management fund,” Ortuyo shared.
During the workshop, Ortuyo and his fellow PO members learned the basic of business planning in the context of MPA management. They became motivated to establish their own social enterprise that would help them earn enough money to sustain the logistical needs of managing the sanctuary.
“Right after the workshop, I met with the other officers of the NURSIHA. We brainstormed and thought of ideas that we could submit as a proposal to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). They have this grant that can provide us seed capital to start a business. Later on, we came up with a rice retail business proposal,” said Ortuyo.
The business proposal was approved during the first quarter of this year, amounting to Php 214,000.00 plus the Php 60,000 counterpart of the organization. It is one of the first social enterprises supported by the SMARTSeas PH Project that was successfully funded by another national government agency.
“Once we start earning with the rice retail business, we will ensure that the profit will go back to the MPA management cost as agreed with the SMARTSeas and the LGU. Although the LGU will continue to support us, we would like to ensure that despite administrative transitions, we can sustain the protection of the marine park sanctuary,” Ortuyo said.
The NURSIHA Enforcement Team does not stop here. They have another business proposal in the pipeline, so now they are awaiting DOLE’s approval, hopeful that their social enterprise will become the backbone of their MPA management in the years to come. (SMARTSeas PH Project/ Rizza Sacra)
*Strengthening the Marine Protected Area System to Conserve Marine Key Biodiversity Areas in the Philippines Project