Lagonoy fishing communities ‘build back better’ boats with WWF

MARK BAUTISTA VIA WWF

FISHERFOLK around Lagonoy Gulf, a rich tuna fishing ground in the central-eastern part of the Philippines, have been working with environmental non-government organization World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature Philippines since 2011 and they have a global certificate to show for their sustainable operations.   

The year 2020, however, proved to be particularly challenging for these small-scale fishers, not so much because of the coronavirus pandemic but due to three strong typhoons that devastated their homes and boats.   

Joann P. Binondo, WWF-Philippines project manager of the sustainable tuna partnership program, said this underscored the importance of resilience among fishing communities amid the climate crisis.     

As part of the program, WWF-Philippines initiated the “Build Back Better” project aimed at fabricating boats that will better withstand increasing extreme weather conditions while maintaining sustainable practices.   

The main objective, Ms. Binondo said during the project launch last week, is increasing “resilience of handline fishers in the project region” against “poverty and disasters.”  

Industrial designer Mark Victor Bautista and the tuna fishermen combined traditional and technological expertise to design a boat that is tougher against the elements as well as support the communities’ Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, a global eco-label for sustainable seafood.  

Yellowfin tuna catch from the Lagonoy Gulf are sold locally and to European companies that support the MSC.   

Three new boats have been turned over to the Gulf of Lagonoy Tuna Fishers Federation, Inc. and WWF-Philippines is looking to raise at least P21 million to build 27 more of the prototype vessels to help more fishers around the gulf.   

Each boat is equivalent in capacity to three traditional fishing boats, and the project will benefit 200 families in 15 towns.   

“Our experience working with the Lagonoy Gulf fishers validates a model for sustainable fishing that has improved community livelihood,” WWF-Philippines Executive Director Katherine Custodio said at the project launch.   

“Knowing what already works,” she said, “we are hoping to seek more support… We hope that many more people, companies, and organizations join in this Build Back Better campaign.” 

Ms. Custodio said that apart from funding, they also need assistance in terms of logistics such as sourcing appropriate engines for the boats.  

WWF-Philippines Ambassador Pia Wurtzbach and her partner WWF-USA Ambassador Jeremy Jauncey, who visited the Lagonoy communities in April, are supporting the campaign.  

“This trip to the Lagonoy Gulf has not only been educational for me and Pia but also affirming for us. One boat at a time, we can help change the lives of several fishers and their communities through the ‘Build Back Better’ campaign,” said Mr. Jauncey.   

Elizaldy Boboyo, an official of the fishers federation, said they have come a long way from an attitude of “to each his own” to working together and “doing what is right for fisheries.” 

Ms. Custodia said the Lagonoy communities stand as a model of how fishers can be “stewards, not abusers” of marine resources. — Marifi S. Jara 

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