Oceana’s digital classroom gives voice to fisherfolk

·4 min read

ONLINE class has extended to coastal communities, with Oceana initiating a virtual classroom for fisherfolk recently to prepare food frontliners for their important role in fisheries governance and in the protection of marine environment through the Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) mechanism.

The Philippine territorial waters have been subdivided into 12 FMAs based on approximate stock boundaries, range, distribution, and structure of its resources. The FMAs were established following the issuance of the Fisheries Administrative Order (FAO) 263 by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in 2019.

Under the FMA system, a management body issues science-based policies for sustainable management of fisheries, with representatives from the BFAR, national government agencies, local governments, and sectoral representatives, including fisherfolk, commercial fishing industry, civil society groups and academic institutions.

“Oceana is excited to be pioneering the Classroom for Fisherfolk learning series to empower our fisherfolk by helping them gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities under our Constitution and fisheries laws, and the significance of their active participation in the sustainable management of our marine resources,” said Oceana Vice President Gloria Estenzo Ramos.

“The classroom learning series benefits not just our fisherfolk but even those in the government. There is so much we can learn from our participants who spend more time out at sea than anyone else. This is a wonderful opportunity for an exchange of insights into pressing challenges on overfishing and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, and discussions on how we can address these issues together,” she added.

One of the participants, Robert “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, who heads the Coalition of Municipal Fisherfolk’s Association (Comfas) in Zamboanga Sibugay, recommended more fisherfolk leaders, including the women and the youth, in the succeeding classes.

“Karamihan ng fisherfolk hindi pa alam ang FMA system na ito. Sana sa susunod mas malawak na pag-uusapan ano ang malaking benepisyo talaga sa ating environment, sa kabuhayan ng mga tao, at sa pagpapalawak ng ating ginagalawan na sektor bilang mga mangingisda. Para (ito) sa susunod na henerasyon, ‘yun ang dapat maintindihan ng karamihan kung bakit may FMA,” he shared in the most recent session he attended.

The participants of the virtual classroom were given an overview of the law and the science behind the FMAs, the status and challenges in its implementation, and the ways in which the fisherfolk can evaluate the performance of the FMA using the scorecard that Oceana and non-government organizations developed.

Ramos emphasized the need for the fisherfolk classroom to be institutionalized to ensure participatory governance in the FMAs.

“From the sessions we have held so far, our fisherfolk expressed deep concern about the state of the fisheries covered by the respective FMAs. They are keen to learn more in helping protect our country’s fishing grounds from abuse. We hope that the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and coastal local governments) would consider institutionalizing this learning activity for our fisherfolk for a genuine inclusive governance,” she added.

In a video message, Agriculture Secretary William Dar called to double the effort in uplifting the fisheries sector, emphasizing support of fisherfolk in ensuring sustainable practices in fisheries.

“We all must take more proactive actions, strengthen our collaborations, and channel more resources in finding science-based solutions to sustainably increase fish stock as well as address long-standing issues that stifle the growth of our sardine industry. I believe issues such as IUU fishing, and climate change hazards are surmountable if we conquer them together. We must not tire in educating fishers of these sustainable conservation measures and ensure industry-wide compliance with closed fishing seasons and other sustainable practices,” Dar said.

Oceana launched the virtual Classroom for Fisherfolk Learning series in June with about 15 fisherfolk from different parts of the country attending. It was followed by three more learning sessions in Fisheries Management Areas 7, 8 and 12 with more than 60 fisherfolk in attendance.

Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources. (PR)

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