Investments in social safety nets can help diversity the income of fisherfolk and help their communities recover from the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.
In the fishing communities of South Negros, the online marketplace dubbed Fish Tiangge was cited as among such noteworthy initiatives. Launched by Silliman University at the height of the pandemic in May, it was adopted by USAID Fish Right for the Calamianes Island Group and the Visayan Sea.
USAID Fish Right Program, a partnership between the Government of the Philippines and the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve marine biodiversity and the fisheries sector, recently organized a “Bluer Normal” forum in which various experts discussed the dire situation of fisherfolk and the need to come up with holistic solutions for their recovery.
During the forum, municipal and barangay leaders were encouraged to recruit more locals to take on more “blue jobs”, to patrol the inland waters and conduct the coastal cleanup, mangrove reforestation, and other related activities.
Other suggestions were raised to help the fishing industry recover as a whole. Forum participant Dr. Joan Castro, Executive Vice President of PATH Foundation, said that local supply chains can enhance processing by creating more ice plants in fishing communities, as this will promote greater post-harvest value with every catch without resorting to increased fishing activities, and will ensure a steady and resilient supply of fish in the long run.
“The economic activities that can possibly be generated from the waters of our territory could contribute more than the current 1.5% to the GDP,” said economic professor Dr. Cielito Habito, another forum co-panelist.
Mr. Juju Tan, Managing Trustee of the Center for Empowerment and Resource Development (CERD) and Trustee of the NGOs of Fisheries Reform, explained that these and other measures will help the fishing communities bounce back from the economic shocks brought about by the pandemic.
John Edgar, Environment Office Chief of USAID/Philippines, said that the country’s vast natural wealth, as well as strong social capital, are key foundations that can anchor a steady and sustainable recovery. The U.S. government, through USAID, is a strong partner and ally of the Philippines in marine conservation that underpins economic recovery and growth in a post-pandemic scenario.
About USAID Fish Right Program
The USAID Fish Right Program is being implemented in the Philippines by the University of Rhode Island partnership with a consortium of Philippine universities and non-government organizations. This five-year project aims to address biodiversity threats, improve marine ecosystem governance, and increase fish biomass in three marine key biodiversity areas (MKBAs): Calamianes Island Group, South Negros, and Visayan Sea. The program builds on the strategic collaboration of USAID and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and its partners to manage fisheries, protect habitats, and enhance human well-being of Filipinos. Fish Right is part of a wider USAID development program that aims to address biodiversity loss, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and illegal trafficking of wildlife resources.