Frontline Stories

Mangrove Trees Rehabilitate Fishing Community

In the western part of the province of Leyte in the Philippines, a small fishing community with less than 50 households used to have an abundant fishery. Fishermen, who commonly are fathers and family breadwinners, enjoy bountiful afternoon catch every day. Families were well-fed since the nearly unlimited supply of fish never ran out, and children were sent to school without any problems, using the income from selling fish for school expenses.

However, after years of fishing, the afternoons of abundant catch became rare. The number of fish being caught dwindled. It was suspected that the use of double net fishing was the cause of the problem. The double net caused the decrease of fish population because it caught small or immature fish. Different from single net fishing, which only caught the bigger ones, double net fishing affected the marine ecosystem.

The fishing community struggled, as their catch decreased. Food became scarce and their source of income became unstable. It also affected their children’s education.

Marcelino, 51 years old and a father of five children, was one of the fishermen whose livelihood was affected. ''Back in the days, I used to bring containers full of fish every day. But it came a time when even a single container couldn’t be filled. I had to stop fishing and find other ways to support my family,'' he says. Their plight was made worse, for typhoons continued to hit their houses with big waves and strong winds. It significantly devastated the community.

When World Vision introduced its community development projects in 1997, this small fishing community was one of the target areas. World Vision immediately identified the fishing livelihood that needed support. With the help of the local government partners, environmental agencies and the people themselves, the rehabilitation project started with the planting of mangrove stalks in the year 2003. Each family was provided with an average of 1,000 mangrove stalks to plant in the area near their house.

''The aim of the mangrove planting project is to provide a safe habitat of various species of fish, where they can lay their eggs without being disturbed by double net fishing,'' shares Renato Nona, a village councilor. ''This will help the marine life repopulate.''

Double net fishing was already banned in their place to make sure that the problem would not reoccur. Now, the mangrove plants are well-grown. Some trees are even taller than the houses of the residents. Their livelihoods have also revived. ''In some parts of the sea, we are able to catch plenty of fish again,'' shares Marcelino.

The rows of thick mangrove trees also help to protect houses from big waves and winds during bad weather. Cresencia, 49, shares about how the trees saved their lives from a super-typhoon, well-known for its massive destruction. ''During Yolanda (the local name of Typhoon Haiyan), some of the houses here in our village were flattened. Mine, which was very close to the tall mangrove trees, was spared from the storm. It only caused minor damages.''

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