Marginal fisherfolk in Bataan find hope in CPAR blue crab

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Blue crab, scientifically known as Portunus pelagicus or “alimasag” in local dialect, a major seafood among Filipinos. It is deliciously served in various dishes from ordinary diners to the finest restaurants in the country and abroad. Given the demand for it, it is considered a potential money-earning industry for the fishery sector and an important source of income for the marginal fisherfolk.

Blue crabs are abundant in the area of Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan in Luzon. In fact, some areas in Bataan greatly depend on blue crab as source of livelihood like Brgy. Sibacan in Balanga where 40 percent of the population depends on catching blue crab to sustain their daily needs. However, due to lack of information and appropriate technology in catching blue crab, fisherfolk in the area remain impoverished and left behind in the method of fishing.

Recognizing blue crab as one with potentials in the major fishery production in the country, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in collaboration with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Region III and the local government of Bataan, embarked on a project that would help marginalize blue crab catchers increase their income through environment-friendly fishing tgechniques.

The project entitled Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) in blue crab fishing using gillnets for the marginal fisherfolk of Bataan, is headed by Ms. Lilian C. Garcia, manager of the Regional Fisheries Research and Development Center (RFRDC) in Region 3.

According to Ms Garcia, there are two ways of catching blue crab or blue crab fishing. Fisherfolk use bare hands to manually catch blue crab during low tide, this method is locally known as “pangangapa.” Another method is through the use of gillnets or “panyo.” These methods are both environment friendly, however it differs in the volume and sizes of catch. Using bare hands or “pangangapa” catches about 2-3 kilograms per person per day while the later allows fisherfolk to catch from 6 to 8 kg per day. The project therefore, recommends the use of gillnets to increase the monthly volume of catch of the marginal fisherfolk, said Ms. Garcia.

Meanwhile, Ms. Gladys Resubal and Ms. Gaudelia Calinao, experts from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) of Bataan and the Office of City Agriculturist (OCA) of Balanga working with the project have provided regular technical assistance to fisher cooperators on appropriate fishing technology using gillnets. The project also provides relevant orientation and trainings such as resource management training, leadership and organizational skills training, values formation and orientation, and briefings on rules and regulations on fisheries and other relevant laws geared for the protection and conservation not only of blue crab but also of other marine resources that are threatened or have been abused by illegal fishing.

Though the project was implemented in November 2009, Ms Garcia proudly said that, some positive changes in the lives of the fisher cooperators have already been noticed. First, the daily catch increased from 2-3 to 6-8 kilograms per day. Second, the project has led to the strengthening of the fisherfolk association named “Samahan ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ni Apo San Rafael“. Third, the campaign against illegal fishing hass intensified through the “proyekto natin, bantay natin program,” a parallel program from the local government unit where members of the association become devoted stewards for the protection and conservation of the marine resources of the community.

Another highlight of the project is that, the relationships among fisherfolk have strengthened through the “buddy-buddy” system, an approach where fisherfolk fish with a chosen buddy and share gasoline or any agreed expenses incurred during the fishing activity.

On the other hand, the Samahan ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ni Apo San Rafael is also a big help to its members by providing financial assistance or loans through the fund generated from their daily contributions. According to the president of the association Mr. Benjie Manuel, the association, started with about 20 members, but it dramatically increased when other fisherfolk in the community learned about the good things that have happened to the project. “Members are now 75 and continue to increase” said Mr. Manuel. With the organization of the group, the community has also benefits from it especially in the implementation of community development projects like cleaning of the beaches etc., “no more hassle for the community”, Mr. Manuel explained.

Ms. Garcia shared the strategy they used in the project. “First, we lead the fisherfolk into the vision and let their mind see that the project has something to do in their life. We inculcate conviction. Imbibe in their heart that they must do it and that they be accountable to it, because conviction will give life to the vision” Ms Garcia explained. “Leading to the vision is one thing, accepting the burden of doing it is another, but how to do it is the most important thing.” The team is always available to teach them the details they need to know. Ms Garcia added. “Then we monitor, to ensure that what the fisherfolk is doing will lead to the desired result of the project.”

“This project serves as an example or the result of a partnership where government organizations work together for the common good of marginalized people,” said Ms Garcia.(Edmon B. Agron)

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