I was watching the news a week or so ago about Dynamite fishing in Manila and the problems the Police are having in catching the culprits. But the problem isn’t so simple. So I done a bit of reading on the types of fishing that exist in the Philippines and how they are affecting not only tourism but also the price of fish. What a lot of people may not be aware of because for example in the UK the price of Cod is more expensive than a good steak these days. But the fish are the poor mans diet in the Philippines, so the constant destruction by dynamite and cyanide fishing actually increases the price of fish and is the main reason chicken has now become so popular over the last 20 years.
There are three types of fishing which are in theory banned (But still being practiced) :-
- Dynamite fishing – It is still being practiced and as I have already stated it was actually on a new story within the last few weeks. They operate in groups and using a bottle with the explosive they throw it into the sea/ocean allowing it to explode and the fish are either killed by the blast or the sound waves. There are several major problems with this in the fact it kills everything fish,coral and a lot of sea life that isn’t wanted. The result being the fishermen take a small portion of what is actually killed. The reason this is a cycle is the fishermen buy the explosives from someone on loan. With flexible pricing as its more to do with access to materials than cost. The prices are then set to keep the fishermen in debt. So the cycle never ends as they need to buy more dynamite to repay the last debt.
- Cyanide Fishing – I’m not going to state the obvious in the fact that Cyanide is a deadly poison and it operates in the same way as the dynamite fishing but instead of an explosive packed bottle its a bottle thrown in without a lid full of cyanide. Results are the same with the added danger in that the fish could be poisonous if eaten. The same suppliers of dynamite are the ones supplying Cyanide and the same cycle of debt.
- Muroami Fishing – This type of fishing involve a huge net being placed around the reef and a large ship with 200+ boys will then dive once the net is in place and start banging with bamboo and rocks to scare the fish from they’re hiding places and force them into the net. Eventually the net is closed and hauled aboard. The boys who do the diving go to very substantial depths and without any diving equipment. Often boys get caught up in the net and will drown due to being unable to escape. This type of fishing was developed in Southern Cebu and although banned is still operating on a small scale. I have included a video clip from the movie Muro Ami which won awards and the main diver in the clip is the host of singing bee. I think its the best way to show how this type of fishing operates.
So what is the reason these types of fishing still continue even if banned? It all comes down to debt and the fact that many of the suppliers of the cyanide and dynamite aswell as organisers of Muroami fishing are the local politicians. Short sighted profit is causing so much damage to the Philippines in this industry and others. These types of fishing aswell as selling rare shells and coral for export greatly affected tourism over the last 20 years although tourism is improving the truth is we are living in an eco world where we talk about carbon footprints and global warming. The preservation of natural beauty and resources has never been so paramount. It wouldn’t take much for tourism to go back into full decline because one of the most environmental groups I’m aware of are the diving community and to think these types of fishing practices can still exist is a major problem for everyone.
I cannot comment on the political aspects but what I would say is how much can a debt of a fisherman be worth in comparison to huge numbers of tourists visiting a province? Even someone on a 2 week holiday/vacation I could easily see them spending P100,000+ what more with retirees and diving groups travelling for the experience?