Marine Protected Area proves itself in Masbate, Philippines
The Buntod Sandbar and Reef Marine Sanctuary was set up in 2OO1 much to the dismay of local fishermen who saw it as a move that deprived them of their livelihood. Dynamite fishing was prevalent, and Masbate City’s Mayor, Socrates [I’m not even joking] Tuason said that it had been hard to convince the fishermen of the fact that the long-term benefits outweighing the short term.
It’s a common issue with trying to set up MPAs in countries like the Philippines. People depend sometimes solely on the sea to live. For some, providing each meal is a struggle. It’s easy to see how the desperation for tomorrow’s dinner drowns out the [to them] unproven advantage of an MPA.
Five years later, it was proved. There was a noticeable difference and now it is reported to be one of the two top marine reserves in the country. Groupers, Yellow Fin and Albacore Tuna have returned to the sanctuary much to the delight of the fishermen who can fish in the spill-over zones. This leaves a protected breeding population untouched in the sanctuary.
Other towns in the region have taken a leaf out of Masbate’s book and set up their own marine sanctuaries. For too long marine sanctuaries haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, both from local and international communities. They have proven time and time again that they work both socially and environmentally. Managed correctly, it is sustainability itself.
The best part is our good friend Socrates has declined to open the area to commercial development because he fears that it would lead to the sanctuaries destruction. However, tourists are allowed to come and see their conservation efforts in action.
It’s an exciting time for marine conservation in the Philippines. Eyes are slowly being opened to the need and the urgency to protect the centre of marine biodiversity, and with proven results from Apo Island and now Masbate and nearby Bugsayon, I hope the whole country throws it’s weight behind MPAs.
Now all we have to do is spread the word.