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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
October, 2010, Vol. 12 No. 4



A Message To Our Friends & Partners

Excerpted from “7 Years & 4 Seas: Our Quest for Sustainable Fisheries, a special end-of-project report to partners on the implementation of the Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) Project in Coron Bay, Danajon Bank, Lanuza Bay and Tawi-Tawi Bay, Philippines, 2003-2010. View/download full report here


Various constituency groups, including the fishers themselves, helped promote transparency in decision-making and push fisheries reform in the FISH Project sites. (Photo: A. Sia, 2008)



fter 7 years of implementation, the Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) Project is now completed. As we bid farewell, we take stock of our achievements and the lessons we learned from our quest to promote good fisheries governance in the Philippines through national policy reform and capacity building in our focal areas in Calamianes, Palawan; Danajon Bank, Bohol; Lanuza Bay, Surigao del Sur; and Tawi-Tawi Bay, Tawi-Tawi. In looking back, we hope to provide a clearer view of the way forward that all those who must carry on the cause can follow – our partners in government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the academe and all stakeholder communities, the countless courageous and committed individuals who believe and endeavor to prove that sustainable and responsible fisheries can happen in our country.

The debate about the state of our fishery resources is over. There is now no question that the seas surrounding the Philippine archipelago are to say the least a stressed ecosystem. The figures are compelling and can no longer be dismissed: The biomass of currently fished demersal stocks has declined to about 30% of its original levels in the 1940s (Silvestre and Pauly, 1986). Available data also indicate that small pelagics are biologically and economically overfished – effort level in the mid-1980s was already more than twice the level necessary to harvest maximum sustainable yield (Dalzell, et al, 1987).

Catch rates of commercial ring netters fell from a peak of about 11 metric tons/HP/year in 1950 to less than 1 metric ton/HP/year in 2001 (BINU Project, 2005), while average catch rates of municipal fishers declined steadily, according to one estimate, from 20kg/day in the 1970s to about 2kg in the 1990s (CRMP, 1998; Katon, et al, 1998). Meanwhile, from the mid-1960s to 1995 when marine fish harvest was at its highest in Central Visayas, annual average trophic level declined noticeably, indicating a significant level of “fishing down the food chain”. (Green, et al, 2004)

Such declines are directly attributable not only to overfishing but also to the destruction of habitats due to a variety of reasons not limited to destructive fishing. A large portion of Philippine coral reefs – up to 95% by some estimates – has been subjected to serious degradation which has reduced their productivity (Yap and Gomez, 1985). Total mangrove cover has shrunk to a fraction of its size 50 years ago (White and Trinidad, 1998), while seagrass communities have come under severe pressure from the combined effects of natural calamities, aquaculture, deforestation, siltation and destructive fishing methods (Fortes, 1989).

The question for us when we started was not whether there was a fish crisis but how should we go about addressing the situation. The Philippine fisheries situation is not unique in that it reflects a global trend of fisheries decline and coastal habitat destruction. But it presents a uniquely daunting challenge because of what it means to a big, mostly impoverished, section of our society (it is, literally, a “gut” issue, and an issue of social equity), and because of what it represents to the rest of the world (the risk of losing what has been acknowledged as the richest tropical marine biodiversity in the world, the “center of the center of marine shore fish diversity”). (Carpenter and Springer, 2005)

Increasing awareness of the degradation of our marine resources has shifted the focus of government and other programs from fisheries development to coastal management. The latter half of the last century was marked by the rapid evolution of coastal management from being mainly centralized/top-down through community-based to most recently local government-driven. This coincided with key policy developments that devolved the responsibility for managing coastal areas and resources to the lowest level of government. It signified the growing recognition, borne out of experience, that while management is most effective when carried out close to the resources used, there remains a need for integration to address the many facets of our coastal environment problem.

When the design for the FISH Project was developed in 2003, the Philippines had already scored significant gains in coastal management. Public awareness of the coastal crisis was at an all-time high. There was a critical mass that supported the advocacy for coastal management and the adoption of integrated coastal management as a basic service by local government. With assistance from various sources, local governments had begun to slowly build their capabilities and allocate resources to address broad coastal issues related to habitat destruction and resource degradation, primarily through marine protected areas (MPAs) and law enforcement.

The FISH Project’s mission was to build on this capacity-building effort. Banking on the spreading national acceptance of integrated coastal management as an essential development strategy, we sought to establish a policy environment and governance system based on coastal resource management (CRM) conducive to the promotion of sustainable fishing practices particularly in municipal waters. Our success would be reckoned by how well the various fisheries stakeholders could identify with and become more capable of continuing the still daunting journey toward a single vision of sustainable and responsible fisheries.

The rise of the Philippine peso against the US dollar mid-way through Project implementation presented a special challenge. The Project had a fixed funding denominated in US dollar; any depreciation of the US dollar against the peso meant less overall funding for implementation in peso terms, and required reevaluation and adjustment of our plans and activities. On a number of occasions, we had to scale down our own expectations of what could be realistically achieved during the Project’s life. We were fortunate that our partners especially in the local government were willing to take up the slack during those times when Project support for some activities had to be reduced in line with our frequently revised budget. Their commitment to the cause was encouraging, because while the Project could lay the groundwork, it is them, not the Project, who will have to confront the fish crisis for the long haul.

The FISH Project experience underscored only too well the difficulty of the journey that still lies ahead. But it also demonstrated that solutions are available and with enough political will can be implemented successfully. Inaction is no longer an acceptable option -- as uncertain as we are about the full extent of our fish crisis, we know without question that with our economic survival hanging in the balance, we can no longer put off cracking on overfishing and the many other unsustainable practices that continue to decimate our fishing grounds.

Enabling conditions to sustain implementation
Through all seven years of the implementation of the FISH project, we sought to establish appropriate sustainability mechanisms at the municipal, inter-LGU (local government unit), provincial and national levels of government. The existence of some enabling conditions provides some indication of the sustainability prospects of our interventions.

At the local level, five enabling conditions to sustain implementation were identified, namely, 1) regular budget allocated to CRM programs (including – or specifically – fisheries management); 2) management plan adopted and supported by policy; 3) office formally mandated with CRM responsibilities; 4) institutional support systems available and accessible to LGUs; and 5) local champions and constituencies organized and active in the advocacy for sustainable fisheries.

  1. CRM or fisheries management plan adopted and supported by policy. As of 2008, all focal area LGUs had officially adopted (generally by municipal ordinance) their respective multi-year management plans. Except that of Calamianes which was fairly focused on fisheries, all plans covered the broader CRM concerns such as habitat management, waste management, coastal tourism, livelihood development, and fisheries management.

  2. Regular budget allocation. The average annual budget allocated to CRM by each focal area or expansion LGU increased 127% from Php300,000 in 2004 to more than Php680,000 in 2010. Generally, however, about half of the budget amount was covered by the LGUs 20% development fund, and few of the plans were specifically funded in the LGUs’ annual investment plans. LGUs were clearly implementing at least some of the programs outlined in their plans, which indicated that funding support for CRM activities was taken from other budget items or through the LGUs’ general fund sources. This could mean that funding support could be withdrawn quite easily, leaving program sustainability in doubt.

  3. Office formally vested with the authority and mandate to carry out or coordinate CRM programs, including (or focused on) fisheries management. In general, CRM programs, including fisheries management, were implemented through an existing office specifically mandated by municipal ordinance or executive order as the primary CRM implementing unit or coordinating office. Most of the 29 LGUs that participated in our survey in 2009 maintained such an office, usually as a section in the MAO (municipal agriculture office) or the Mayor’s Office, or in the case of the Tawi-Tawi focal area LGUs, under the newly established MAFO (municipal agriculture and fisheries office).

  4. Institutional support systems existing and accessible. We identified several possible institutional sources of technical, policy and funding support for LGUs, including national government agencies (NGAs), the province, NGOs and academic institutions. However, most LGUs did not regard the province as a major source of support, except in Bohol, where based on a capacity rating system developed by FISH, LGUs scored over 50% on access to technical services from the province. But even in Bohol, available expertise was limited to CRM planning, MPA establishment and coastal law enforcement. In general, the LGUs said they also got very little support from other institutional sources, including the Department of Agriculture-Bureua of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR).

  5. Local constituencies organized and active in sustainable fisheries advocacy. Various constituency groups helped promote transparency in decision-making and push fisheries reform in our sites. They included the fisheries and aquatic resource management councils (FARMCs), NGOs, people's organizations (POs) and religious sector, as well as “champions” within the LGUs who worked with them. Many of them felt confident about the ability to sustain their advocacy work, but there were also a good number, especially among POs managing Project-supported MPAs, that said they needed further assistance.

At the inter-LGU level, we promoted cooperation and collaboration to provide a venue for policy and plan coordination and develop a support base for fisheries management from within the LGUs’ ranks, while building the foundation for scaling up fisheries management to a larger area. Four sustainability factors were considered: 1) legal basis of the inter-LGU cooperation; 2) inter-LGU planning; 3) budgetary support for inter-LGU programs; and 4) permanent secretariat to coordinate cooperation.

  1. Legal basis for inter-LGU cooperation. There was at least one inter-LGU arrangement in each focal area that we helped to establish or strengthen by defining or refining its legal basis. Generally, an inter-LGU arrangement was established through an inter-LGU memorandum of agreement (MOA), memorandum of understanding (MOU), or covenant that set forth the terms and objectives of cooperation.

  2. Inter-LGU management plans. The Calamianes LGUs adopted in 2008 an integrated fisheries management plan, while the Lanuza Bay Development Alliance (LBDA) completed in 2006 an improved version of its Environmental Management Plan, aligning its member-LGUs’ CRM programs and activities. As of end-2009, the Danajon Bank and Tawi-tawi LGUs had yet to finalize their inter-LGU plans.

  3. Budgetary support for inter-LGU programs. Except for the LBDA plan, all inter-LGU plans were intended primarily for policy and coordination purposes and had no budgetary support from the cooperating LGUs. In the LBDA’s case, the annual contribution of each of its 7 member-LGUs was increased from Php50,000 in 2003 to Php150,000 by 2009. The fund was intended primarily for the LBDA secretariat’s operating expenses and various program implementation activities. It must be noted that the individual LGUs used part of their municipal CRM budgets to meet their financial obligations to the LBDA. While this may seem to be a case of transferring money from the left pocket to the right, it did allow the LGUs to leverage their resources and accomplish more for the same amount of money.

  4. Permanent secretariat. Except for LBDA which had its own secretariat, the various inter-LGU cooperation arrangements were coordinated by an existing agency at the provincial level and were largely limited to MPA monitoring, law enforcement and information-education-communication (IEC). For example, the activities of Coastal Law Enforcement Council (CLEC) in Danajon Bank and the Tawi-Tawi Bay Fish Sanctuary Alliance (TBFSA) in Tawi-Tawi were coordinated by Bohol Environment Management Office (BEMO) and the Tawi-Tawi provincial office of DA-BFAR, respectively. We coordinated the various activities leading to the adoption of the Calamianes Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, a function that, as of end-2009, the Coron LGU had started to assume as the focal municipality for inter-LGU collaboration in Calamianes.

At the provincial level, we harnessed the important but still largely untapped role of the provincial government as a service provider in CRM and fisheries management, by providing limited capacity-building support to different provincial offices with the relevant mandates. Capacity-building generally focused on establishing three enabling conditions for sustainability: 1) provincial government’s role as CRM service provider clarified, defined and strengthened; 2) provincial staff trained as CRM service providers; and 3) funding support for CRM included in the provincial annual investment plan.

  1. Provincial government’s role clarified, defined and strengthened. In Bohol, the province through BEMO had a fairly well-defined and active role as a CRM service provider to municipal LGUs even prior to FISH, but this was not the case in our other sites. We provided some organizational development support to relevant provincial offices in Palawan (Provincial CRM Office), Surigao del Sur (Provincial Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Office) and Tawi-Tawi (Tawi-Tawi Environment Management Office). However, at the time of the survey, these offices had yet to establish a tangible enough presence in our focal area municipalities.

  2. Provincial staff trained as CRM service providers. The Project engaged the provincial offices in our interventions at the municipal level, thereby providing them many opportunities to develop some capacity as a technical assistance provider, particularly in resource assessment, CRM planning, marine spatial planning, municipal water delineation, law enforcement, MPA management and IEC.

  3. Funding support for CRM included in the provincial annual investment plan. One indication pointing to the provincial governments’ interest in assuming a more active role in CRM was the inclusion in their budgets of provisions for CRM program implementation at the municipal level. The amounts ranged from Php300,000 in Surigao del Sur to Php4 million in our expansion area in Surigao del Norte. They were intended mostly to support CRM planning, municipal FARMCs, MPAs, mangrove management, law enforcement, livelihood development, municipal water delineation and IEC activities, such as environment-themed events designed to promote public awareness of coastal issues.

Three sustainability factors were considered at the national level: 1) policy reform and development, 2) constituency building, and 3) reporting and feedback.

  1. Policy reform and development. The Project completed about 30 policy initiatives, 11 of which had been adopted by DA-BFAR at the end of 2009, including 2 fisheries office orders on the adoption and implementation of the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) and integrated fisheries management unit scheme, two major policies that set the direction for fisheries development in the Philippines. Several other important policies were not acted on, however, largely because of a lack of institutional support.

  2. Constituency building. Several important allies were engaged in fisheries reform at the national level, the most strategic of which were the NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR) and League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), which represented the NGO/PO and LGU sectors. The LMP in particular proved to be an effective lobby group for policy initiatives that addressed issues affecting municipal fisheries. In 2008, LMP adopted sustainable fisheries as a programmatic objective through its Movement for Responsible Fisheries (MOREFISH) program, which was developed with FISH assistance.

  3. Enforcement reporting and feedback. National Law Enforcement Coordinating Council (NALECC) and Philippine National Police (PNP) adopted a system of reporting coastal law enforcement issues to national decision-makers and issuing resolutions or directives to relevant agencies that specifically address such issues. This reporting and feedback mechanism makes enforcement agencies like PNP and DA-BFAR more accountable for the actions they take on illegal fishing matters.

Remaining gaps
There are two key aspects of capacity development where LGUs need assistance in order to effectively carry out and sustain CRM implementation. The first aspect relates to the technical requirements of project implementation, and the second concerns organizational and operational needs. Much of our effort at building local capacity to promote sustainable fisheries focused on developing technical capacities at the activity level, mainly MPA management, coastal law enforcement and IEC. In a number of our sites, some degree of competence in specialized technical functions, such as MPA monitoring, fishing vessel admeasurement, and GPS navigation and mapping, has been achieved. In most areas, personnel and resource users have also been exposed to IEC interventions and learned to advocate and champion CRM and sustainable fisheries within the LGU.

However, in terms of fisheries management and in particular fishing effort management, lack of technical expertise remains a top concern that must be addressed. Our experience with FISH underscored only too well that fishery law enforcement and MPAs alone cannot solve our overfishing problem – there must also be a systematic effort to manage overall fishing effort, and this is a critical gap that still needs to be resolved.

Besides enforcing already existing fishery laws and management measures, LGUs in general still do not have the technical capacity to address overfishing issues and the emerging issues on equity of access to fishery resources evident particularly in Danajon Bank. Few LGUs have even attempted to undertake fish catch monitoring on a regular basis, much less use fisheries information to analyze fishing trends for the purpose of fishing effort management. Indeed, while much progress has been achieved in capacitating LGUs in coastal law enforcement, MPA management, IEC, and some aspects of CRM planning and coordination, most LGUs still lack the technical capacity to fully perform their CRM mandates under the LGC and 1998 Fisheries Code.

Overall in the target areas, more work also needs to be done to address organizational and operational constraints, and even in the focal areas where the bulk of capacity building was directed, critical gaps remain. These include numerous institutional issues, such as lack of continuity between political term limits in the implementation of programs requiring sustained effort; poor implementation of CRM and fisheries management plans; weak law enforcement capabilities; inadequate institutional support; and inconsistency and conflicts between plans, programs and legislation within and between local and national governments.

Lack of funding is a perennial concern. While the average annual budget for CRM in the focal areas increased substantially from Php300,000 in 2003 to more than Php680,000 in 2010, this amount is still way below the investment needed for sustainable CRM at the municipal level, even one that is focused solely on fisheries concerns. Thus, although CRM and fisheries management plans have been adopted across our sites, most programs remain grossly underfunded, and their implementation is consequently patchy at best.

Funding deficits could be reduced by leveraging local resources through various inter-LGU cooperation arrangements, but except in Lanuza Bay, such arrangements have been largely limited to policy and coordination. Other sources of funding and technical expertise – the province, NGOs, academe and NGAs – are also not easily accessible and are themselves generally hampered by limited resources and capacity. Overall there is very limited assistance available for improving fisheries governance, particularly in regard to fishing effort management.

While some NGOs have become excellent service providers to catalyze improved CRM, their focus has been mainly on MPAs, community organizing, advocacy, legal services and IEC. Academic institutions involved in research of the socio-environmental aspects of CRM and fisheries can play a vital role by providing sound scientific studies and assessments needed for management decisions, but they too are underutilized. In general, information flow from assisting organizations is unidirectional with feedback mechanisms to government decision-makers lacking.

Provinces can be an important source of support and in fact have been already proven to be uniquely suited to foster harmonized local policies and programs through a provincial policy framework, provide technical and information management support services to coastal municipalities and cities, and thus contribute to the sustainability of local programs. With training from FISH, a number of provinces have begun showing increased appreciation of their role as CRM service provider by allocating funds for local CRM implementation. However, even here, there is still only minimal assistance that LGUs can expect whether in terms of funding or technical services. As in municipal and city LGUs, capacities still need to be developed in the provinces, in the context of both the technical and organizational requirements of CRM.

The policy instruments and institutional arrangements now present in the different provinces – from Bohol’s BEMO to Tawi-Tawi’s TEMO -- are encouraging developments, but they must be strengthened to become fully operational and truly relevant to the contemporary needs of CRM in their localities. Even Bohol’s BEMO, the oldest and most experienced among the provincial offices that provide technical assistance in CRM, is currently confined to a few CRM services, namely, CRM planning, MPA management and coastal law enforcement in a few municipalities.

Higher up the government hierarchy, NGAs with the bulk of CRM-related responsibilities -- DA-BFAR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG, including the PNP), and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), in particular the PCG – often come up short in implementing policies and services toward supporting local initiatives in CRM. Since the devolution of major CRM responsibilities -- particularly fisheries management – to the local government in 1991, national government not only should have realigned and prioritized policies and programs toward the common goal of improving local governments’ capacity to manage their own coastal and fishery resources, it was also expected to provide consistent and clear policy guidance, training, and technical and financial assistance to LGUs, as well as monitor and evaluate the condition of coastal resources and progress of local management programs. Instead, considerable inconsistency, overlap, inaction, and conflict continue to exist within and between national governmentpolicies and programs related to CRM.

In particular, DA-BFAR, the country’s lead national agency in charge of fisheries, has yet to undertake a capacity development program for LGUs in fisheries management. In recent years, the bureau has taken steps to work more closely with LGUs, but its assistance remains heavily focused on increasing fisheries production, primarily through aquaculture and mariculture.

FISH did a tremendous job in assisting the formulation of various policies supporting sustainable fisheries, but only a handful of these policies have been approved by the DA-BFAR. Even the CNFIDP, the 25-year framework plan for sustainable fisheries development which in 2008 was adopted for implementation through a fisheries office order, has yet to be considered in the DA-BFAR’s budget programming. Consequently, the bureau continues to face serious issues that hamper its ability to balance its mandate for increased production with sustainable use of the nation’s fishery resources.

Looking ahead
Many of the answers to current issues are already in the form of policy that needs only to be put in operation, with some refinements, if necessary. In addition, the development and application of a number of sustainability instruments and mechanisms are underway and need only to be pursued. Below are some recommendations on how to pick up capacity building where FISH left off, so as to provide program continuity and promote the sustainability of interventions at the different levels of management.

Local implementation
At the local level, our capacity building program was anchored on a participatory planning process framework that defines the broad activities and strategies applicable across the realm of CRM. This framework has been successfully institutionalized to varying degrees in our sites, leading to the adoption by the LGUs of CRM as a basic service. In order to efficiently address the still numerous capacity gaps that continue to persist in local implementation, capacity development must build on this framework by defining the process, specific activities and task sets for each program or best practice.

Several actions can be immediately taken in the FISH sites to advance capacity building and improve local implementation. These include:

  1. Improve the LGUs’ capacity to coordinate, monitor, review and evaluate program implementation. Monitoring and evaluation is a common weak spot in local implementation that capacity building must continue to work on;

  2. Continue to encourage the inclusion of CRM in the LGUs’ annual investment plans (AIPs) to help ensure that funds are available for implementation. The greater challenge, however, is how to ensure that there are regular budget allocations for personnel services, operations and capital outlay to support CRM and fisheries management programs, and furthermore that funds allocated to CRM are actually spent for the purpose that they are intended.

  3. Review and evaluate policy implementation, and address capacity gaps as needed. Many policies supporting sustainable fisheries have been passed that are not yet implemented, often because of a lack of political will or enforcement capacity, or simply because of the absence of implementing guidelines.

  4. Continue to push for the creation of permanent CRM positions. Most LGU offices designated to undertake CRM in the FISH sites are essentially improvised arrangements usually supported by an executive order issued by the local chief executive. Often, these arrangements are the only viable option given that most LGUs have reached their 45% budget cap on personnel services. But they are rather tenuous, because the offices can be easily dissolved by simple revocation of the executive order.

  5. Continue to work with and build an active constituency among community stakeholders to promote program continuity, transparency and accountability in planning and decision-making. Public recognition of local government leaders that support CRM helps promote wider public support and reinforces the LGU’s commitment to continue the program after the end of a political term.

  6. Build law enforcement programs to promote compliance by supporting activities related to prevention, apprehension and prosecution. We attempted to put in place three basic ingredients in the local governance system to support fisheries law enforcement, namely, budgetary support for procurement and personnel services, competent manpower to undertake enforcement and a way to make the LGU criminally and administratively liable for the non-enforcement of fisheries laws. To sustain enforcement, future initiatives must ensure that these ingredients remain in place, while aiming for systemic improvements in law enforcement.

  7. Continue to develop capacity in the different aspects of CRM. Compared to where it started just over a decade ago, the effort to institutionalize CRM as a basic LGU service has progressed far enough to have some tangible impacts. But compared to the full range of CRM concerns that need to be addressed, it has only really just begun. For the most part in our sites, capacity in terms of skills, knowledge, institutions and relationships have been established for MPA management, coastal law enforcement and IEC, but there is still only very limited capacity in fisheries management, particularly fishing effort management.

The single most important sector in the coastal zone is the municipal fisheries sector, and it must remain the focus of future capacity building efforts. Where fisheries management is concerned, future initiatives must integrate into the process the steps needed to systematically manage fishing effort using the best available information to continuously guide planning, policy-making and enforcement.

During the course of Project implementation, we tested a participatory process of identifying species that required management and the measures needed to manage them. One deficiency in this approach was that it did not complete the integration of this particular process into the main planning activity that was being undertaken to broadly identify the programs and strategies to address local CRM concerns. Consequently, there was little appreciation of the process itself, because LGUs perceived the activity as a one-off exercise to achieve a specific objective, such as the declaration of a siganid closed season. Nevertheless, with a little adaptation, future projects would do well to use this experience to develop a fisheries management process that is suited to existing capacities and resources at the local level, and then integrate the process into the LGU planning system. The fishery registration and licensing system that we helped install in our focal area LGUs must also be linked to the system to inform planning and management.

One critical area of competency that still needs to be filled is fish catch monitoring. Our attempt to install a fish catch monitoring system in our sites did not prosper because LGUs found the methods used to be too rigorous and costly. Despite such setback, the effort to develop an acceptable fish catch monitoring method must continue and LGUs must be persuaded to use it by demonstrating its practical applications, particularly in managing fishing effort.

Institutional support systems
It was our operational policy to engage multiple levels of government to build institutional support for local initiatives and promote program sustainability. The following actions are recommended to further develop these institutional arrangements:
  1. Continue to develop inter-LGU arrangements by creating a strong mechanism for coordinating collaborative activities. A permanent secretariat, funded by the LGUs themselves, is ideal but it may not be acceptable to some LGUs for various reasons (personnel tenure, budget, procedures, jurisdiction, etc.). In general, it is best to let the cooperating LGUs decide what coordinating mechanism would work best for them, given certain limitations and constraints. Inter-LGU collaboration would also benefit from having a stronger legal basis.

  2. Strengthen the role and capacity of the province as a CRM service provider. Projects can tap the interest shown by the different provinces in assisting local CRM programs to fill at least some of the demand for technical assistance from LGUs. But provinces need capacity building themselves, and they too have limited resources. One area where they can strategically assist municipalities would be in the maintenance of fisheries databases – this may be worth exploring.

  3. Continue to engage the LMP in policy advocacy and capacity building for CRM. Our partnership with LMP led to the establishment of a regular CRM advocacy program under the LMP national secretariat and the institutionalization in the Mayors Development Center (MDC) of a training program for mayors. To promote program continuity, the national secretariat and the MDC – being the main program proponents – must be strengthened so that they can more effectively advocate CRM within LMP and advocate the LGUs’ fisheries management concerns with DA-BFAR.

  4. Assist DA-BFAR in carrying out the integrated fisheries management unit (FMU) scheme and CNFIDP. We made some headway in overcoming institutional resistance to fisheries reform in getting these policy initiatives approved by bureau officials. But until DA-BFAR begins to take ownership of these initiatives and implement them as priority programmatic actions, the reform process cannot prosper. This may require substantial investments in organizational development. DA-BFAR is not equipped to meet the current demand for technical assistance in fisheries management in the country – it has one small section responsible for fisheries management that is mostly tasked with the regulation of commercial fishing operations. The bureau has to be beefed up, both in terms of human and financial resources, to be able to adequately perform its role as service provider not only to the municipal LGUs but also to the commercial fishing sector. Even more capacity building is needed to bring it up to par with the administrative requirements of an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF). One immediate action that can be taken is to install the fish catch monitoring system that FISH developed in the DA-BFAR information management system.

  5. Engage DILG more fully in the capacity development effort. DILG holds two key functions that can directly impact LGU adoption of CRM as a basic service: capacity development in governance and monitoring of LGU performance. We have developed a preliminary benchmarking system for fisheries management that can be developed further through a consultative process for use by DENR, DA-BFAR and DILG in monitoring and evaluating LGU performance in CRM and fisheries management. To assist LGUs in CRM service delivery and increase their capacity in environmental governance, DILG must broaden its functions to include policy review and technical assistance in environmental and natural resources management, and work toward establishing collaborative relationships in CRM with DENR and DA-BFAR. Also, DILG has authority over the PNP, which performs all police functions over territorial waters and rivers and coastal areas. Currently, the ability of the PNP to enforce coastal laws at sea is severely hampered by the lack of trained coastal law enforcement officers and equipment, including patrol boats, required to do the job. Future initiatives can build on the FISH Project’s success in institutionalizing within the NALECC a reporting and feedback mechanism that allows national decision-makers to respond quickly to coastal law enforcement issues as they are reported from the ground.

Scaling up management
As capacities are built across all levels of government, there are emerging opportunities and challenges to scale up the gains across the fishing groups of the country. The following recommended actions have been put forward for the Philippine government to consider:
  1. Adopt and fully implement an ecosystem-based clustering of management areas (FMUs) defined according to their distinct biophysical and ecological characteristics such as resource distribution. The FMUs were formulated based on the 10-year data of DA-BFAR’s National Stock Assessment Project (NSAP).

  2. Build the capacity of individual LGUs and inter-LGU alliances to collectively manage a defined FMU including among others the provision of timely technical information as basis for management decisions, technical assistance to LGUs and local stakeholders and appropriate infrastructure and equipment to effectively respond fishery law violations.

  3. Prioritize support for the improvement of local fisheries management systems at the LGU level. As we have demonstrated, municipal fishing grounds though mostly overfished remain to be a promising area where proper management can lead to rapid recovery of resources.

  4. Spearhead an inter-agency initiative to support a local government enforcement program particularly in responding to strategic enforcement concerns such as poaching and intrusion of commercial fishing operations in municipal waters.

  5. Adopt and implement the CNFIDP.

  6. Promote poverty alleviation and sustainable fisheries policies and programs (e.g. mariculture, livelihood support) that provide a balance between enhancing productivity, maintaining environmental and ecosystem integrity and promoting social equity.

  7. Create and strengthen an inter-agency policy coordination unit to harmonize conflicting policies, plans or priorities among agencies of the national government or between national and local governments.

In 2003 when we received our marching orders to promote sustainable fisheries in the four FISH Project areas, we knew that we would be facing many great challenges. But we also knew with certainty that what we were tasked to do was not impossible. Now, seven years later, we are proud of our many accomplishments particularly in helping our partner LGUs achieve some capacity in controlling a number of critical factors that could cause harm to their municipal fisheries.

But the question persists, can sustainable fisheries happen? On this, we remain hopeful. Sustainable fisheries can certainly happen, but not without more hard work from everyone concerned.

Fact is sustainable fisheries must happen. Our fishery resources are not something we can lose without dire consequences. The stakes are too high. And having gone this far, after learning and accomplishing so much, those who are responsible for municipal fisheries in our focal areas, along with those who are mandated to assist them, are at least in a better place today than seven years ago, even with a still good distance to go. Through their shared experience in implementing the FISH Project, they have gained knowledge steeped in reality, and it will stand them in good stead as they continue their way forward to sustainable fisheries, more surely and more confidently now that they have the wisdom of experience and clarity of hindsight. We hope it will guide them to a future where sustainable and responsible fisheries are the norm rather than the exception, the primary consideration rather than merely an afterthought.

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This website was made possible through support provided by the USAID under the terms of Contract No. AID 492-C-00-03-00022-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID. As long as proper reference is made to the source, articles may be quoted or reproduced in any form for non-commercial, non-profit purposes to advance the cause of marine environmental and fisheries management and conservation.