THE DARWIN PROJECT

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This year marks the second year of the implementation of Darwin Initiative Project, a four-year project (2012-2016) in partnership with Newcastle University. Titled “Responding to Fish Extirpations in the Global Marine Biodiversity Epicenter,” the project aims to determine the fish species that are threatened in five marine key biodiversity areas (KBAs) in the Philippines, through capturing fishers’ knowledge and well-replicated underwater surveys.

The project team has already been to three sites to interview fishers: Lanuza Bay, Surigao del Sur; Danajon Bank, Bohol and along the Verde Island Passage.

Lanuza Bay, Surigao del Sur
In Lanuza Bay, the team was able to cover two municipalities, Lanuza and Cortes, with a total of 414 fishers interviewed.

Lanuza and Cortes were also recipients of past Haribon project which include the Governance and Local Development for Endangered Forests, Landscapes and Seascapes, funded by the European Union and the Spanish government through Cives Mundi, and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation-funded Building Baywide Constituency for Participatory Marine Sanctuary Monitoring.

Lanuza Bay is one of the baywide members of the Pambansang Alyansa ng Maliliit na Mangingisda na Nangangalaga ng Sangtuwaryo and Karagatan Pilipinas, a national network of community-based marine protected area managers in the Philippines, in which Haribon was instrumental in organizing 122 marine protected areas.

Danajon Bank, Bohol
In Bohol, three municipalities were covered, Talibon, Bien Unido and Getafe. These are the municipalities in northern Bohol located near the Danajon Bank, the only double barrier reef in the Philippines.

The team was able to interview a total of 954 fishers with local research partners and with the assistance of the Project Seahorse Foundation for Marine Conservation, nongovernment organization based in Cebu.

Verde Island Passage
Along the Verde Island Passage, the team interviewed fishers in three municipalities, namely, San Juan, Batangas; Verde Island in Batangas City: and Lubang, Occidental Mindoro.

In a study by Carpenter and Springer (2005), Verde Island Passage is considered to be the center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.

The team was able to gather data on marine ornamental fish because of the presence of the fishery in the island. This is the same community that was trained to sustainably collect marine ornamental fishes and wean them on the use of sodium cyanide during Haribon’s Netsman Project, funded by the International Development Research Center of Canada. After nearly two decades, the aquarium fishers are still practicing sustainable collection of fishes.

In one of the interviews in Barangay Catmon in San Juan, an 83-year-old fisher claimed to have caught a giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) during his younger years. When asked to compare his catch before from the usual catch of fishers today, he said, “Walang masasabi ang isang buwan na huli nila ng isda ngayon sa isang linggo na huli ko noon [A month’s worth of catch today cannot compare to a week’s worth of catch before].”

In Lubang, Occidental Mindoro, one fisher was a strong advocate against illegal fishing.

According to him, “Isang araw ka ngang busog, isang linggo ka namang gutom [You’re fed for a day, but you’re hungry for a week].”

Upcoming plans
Ultimately, the project aims to make policy recommendations at the local, national and international levels based on the analysis of data gathered and lessons learned during the duration of the project.

Currently, the gathered data from Lanuza, Danajon and Verde Island Passage are being databased and statistically modeled. Also, follow up interviews and conservation-livelihood assessments are being done at Lanuza Bay in preparation for the project’s site action.

What’s coming up in the next three years?
Two more study sites will be visited for fishers’ knowledge interviews. The team is scheduled to do fieldwork in Polilio Island, Quezon on July to August 2013 while Honda Bay, Palawan is yet to be scheduled. Fish landings data gathering, underwater surveys and site conservation around Lanuza Bay will also be done.

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