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Fishing at Anilao: bad and getting worse


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#1 troporobo

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 07:19 PM

We've been noticing a significant uptick in fishing activity around Anilao.  There have always been fishers out in small bancas, handlines here and there, and the teams with nets at night especially around Maricaban island and further offshore.  More recently, there are fishers casting from shore right in front of the resorts, and others mooring their bancas to the buoys at the recognized dive sites.  Perhaps most shocking has been sightings of the boat boys from resorts fishing while their diving guests are below!
 
The result is predictable - noticeable decline in fish life, and particularly, the disappearance of the popular school of bigeye jacks at Twin Rocks. 
 
But last weekend our group had a serious incident that really troubles me.  We were ascending from quite near Sombrero island, half way through a safety stop at 5m, when we spotted this coming straight at us:
 
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There were three small bancas that had set a net and were pulling it into a circle, while boys were freediving down to grab their catch, with our dive group in the middle!  I fired off a quick photo for evidence before we quickly descended and waited for the net to pass before surfacing. I'm still shaking from the thought of getting tangled in a net with tanks low on air at the end of a 60 minute dive. 
 
There is no way this was an innocent blunder.  It was sunny and calm and our neon orange SMB was at the surface, clearly visible.  Our own banca was within 20 meters.  And when we got to the surface there were 5 other dive bancas in the immediate vicinity, all with groups down below, and no one on the surface had warned the fishers nor could they understand why we surfaced shouting in alarm.  
 
Now, I understand that fishing is allowed in all but three small protected areas near the shore.  And I have a lot of empathy for the poor fishers who are out to get food and make a living.  I know full well that they get no benefit from dive tourism and zero share of the income from dive passes sold (and enforced vigorously) by the barangay officials that are supposed to protect the environment.  But the irresponsibility of every person on the surface, knowing without a doubt that there were divers in the water whose safety was obviously at risk, was just unbelievable.
 
I also know that there is very little that we can do about this.  I have started snapping photos of the guys fishing from resort bancas while on dive excursions and sending them to the resorts, but have yet to get a single acknowledgement.  There's no point in taking up the issue of fishing at recognized dive sites with barangay officials because (a) its legal and (b) they are surely only interested in trousering as much of the dive pass income as they can.  But I am upset and not willing to just keep shrugging it off. 
 
I would welcome thoughts from the community on maybe starting an information campaign on safety, and other ideas on how to approach this worsening situation constructively.
 
 

 



#2 trimix125

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 10:27 PM

Hi,
this is realy sad to hear!
Have seen the very small boats the fishermen were using, my respect for their work.
Once one brought a tune he catched with a single line to our resort for direct selling.
That brought him i think more money than the market, and us fresh tuna.

Getting in a net can be a deadly accident for divers.
Think this is the way to argument. A dead diver from a net will be the worst scenario for the resorts there.

Dont know the rules in the philippines, but normaly you have to stay away min 50m from a boat with diver flag!

Thanks for sharing and your work in this problem.

Regards,
Wolfgang



#3 Pajjpen

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 02:01 PM

Post the pictures of the resorts finishing here. I would not choose a resort if they did that for sure. So that could be a way to hurt them and let them know it's not ok. Booked my first trip to anilao in December right and pretty bummed to see this.

#4 troporobo

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 04:59 PM

I've been having intensive discussions over the past few days with a number of people keenly interested in finding some constructive solutions. The goal will be to start forming a coalition of those with real skin in the game - resorts who pay taxes and employ locals, government offices charged with environmental protection and marine safety, conservation NGOs, the dive pro association.  

 

I think it would be premature and counterproductive to start publicly naming and shaming (though that option isn't ruled out). One clarification for those not familiar with standard operating procedures here: most resorts don't own and operate the bancas, they arrange with local boat owners and DMs on a day-hire basis. I guess many are not even aware that some crews are fishing while guests are diving. 

 

We want to make this about protecting the commons for safe and responsible joint use.  It cannot be an anti-fishing campaign. Livelihoods for poor communities trump UW tourism, even if they can be mutually reinforcing.  

 

As for travel to Anilao, I did not mean to discourage it although I can see that my post probably creates such an impression.  We need to address the conflicts but the diving is very good and December is a great time to be here.