Saving Meloy – Hambongan Islands RARE Pride Campaign

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Continuation of – Hambongan Island : Discovering a RARE Path

Like Saving Nemo, the Disney film with a lovable clown fish – Meloy is the mascot of the Hambongan Island RARE Pride Campaign. He is a Phanter Grouper – a fish that belongs to a vulnerable group of species that lives in the local reefs. The fish are used for food and are popular with those who are aquarium hobbyists. As a result, the numbers of Phanter Grouper have gone down dramatically.

Meloy Hambongan Island Pride Campaign Mascot
Meloy Hambongan Island Pride Campaign Mascot

Meloy was chosen because he is a signature fish of the region and I have to admit, for a fish, he is very cute. Since 1997, Inabanga has been working with fish wardens, coastal police, and barangay tanods to build 23.85 hectares of marine sanctuaries in Hambongan and Cuaming. In addition, 43 hectares of sea grass sanctuary and 303 hectares of mangrove reforestation.

lunch in the island
Adobong Pusit

Now, with the RARE pride campaign, the community aims to increase fish density by 7 percent and coral cover by 8%! It’s a huge challenge because there is still illegal fishing and harvesting in some protected areas so a main goal of the campaign is to educate and empower the whole community pro-actively and to create an intelligence network for conservation enforcement. In addition micro loans for seaweed farming as an alternative to fishing are another goal of the project.

dynamite fishing in hambongan island
Effects of Dynamite Fishing in the Elementary School Buildings

While I can’t say that I discovered or was the first to write about Hambongan Island, I feel proud to have been able to participate in this event that is designed to keep the Island’s coral reef in shape for many generations. As I watched this community coming together to preserve and protect, I thought of the many places I’ve been in these more than 7000 islands and realized how lucky I am to be able to dive in gorgeous coral reefs, hike through verdant rain forests, and travel to so many destinations within my own country.

Blue Pride Award
Blue Pride Award

The Philippines has the richest biodiversity in the whole world and the highest diversity of coral reef fish too! Preserving our biodiversity means conserving our heritage and the gift we were blessed with. Not to mention, all this conservation ‘work’ can be pretty fun too. Like the RARE pride campaign here, the drive to conserve can start at the local level.

Low Tide
Low Tide

One of the big problems with conservation is how little people know about the danger their own regions or neighborhoods are in. By providing awareness and bringing in local community support, the groundwork is laid for policy change, legislative reforms and legal protection for sensitive areas.

kids in the island
Random Environmental Portraits

Not to mention that a shift in public behavior is all that is really needed to save a place that would otherwise disappear. Sustainability isn’t hard, but sometimes changing the way people think or do things is very hard. One way to do this is to focus on critically endangered species and ecosystems.

little island bohol
Mangrove Area

Another important factor is to foster the development of alternative livelihoods and ways for people to survive. It’s all well and good to say ‘stop fishing with dynamite’ but unless you are able to provide a different way to let a man or woman feed and protect their family, you may as well be just beating your head against the wall. The RARE Pride campaign here is a great example with instruction of sustainable fishing practices and the aforementioned micro financing for sea grass farming.

Text Hotline
Text Hotline

This entire trip for me was something that I’d really needed to become involved in. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how fragile and delicate our natural environment can be. The growth of the tourism industry has made preserving the environment more obvious but also offers challenges that need to be met.

Vegetable Store
Vegetable Store

Increased pressure on reefs and closed ecosystems by more visits, more boats, more divers has also had an impact on the natural world and as such we will need to figure out ways to not only preserve from destructive practices but also to make sure that biodiversity is not threatened.

The RARE organization is based in the USA and is a leader in social marketing for biodiversity. Using social marketing and community based activities, RARE works to change attitudes and behaviors in a positive way through building local awareness, the need for conservation, and training local officials and representatives in practices that help to build awareness, influence attitudes and create meaningful change.

If you would like to find out more, to contribute towards saving coral reefs, or to join RARE you can get involved at http://www.rareplanet.org/en. For monetary donations, checkout this link https://www.charity-pay.com/d/donation.asp?CID=13.

Be a catalyst for change. Help in your own little way:)

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