By Julianne Marchela Parin
Tanza, a little town in Cavite, now faces a drastic depletion of fish stocks. Fish catch has declined continuously and is likely to fall further. The culprit is the climate breakdown, affecting the town’s fisheries industry. Most of all, the crisis targets the income and livelihood of both small fisherfolks and fish sellers.
For Arceli Antiojo, 61, who has been a fish vendor since her youth, she has to go to the trouble of getting fish from another municipality daily to sell later on in a talipapa in Barangay Amaya.
“When the sales are good, usually I earn P1,000 a day. And, before we can still get and catch fishes here in Barangay Amaya VII, but we barely get anything from there now,” Antiojo said.
The decline in fish catch also disturbs Percival Monzon, 50, relying on his livelihood as a fisherman.
“If the fish are affected, our lives will be affected too,” Monzon stressed.
Their stories are the stories of most small-scale fishers and fish sellers in the country who face declining fish stocks with warming seas to blame because of the worsening climate change.
In a 2018 study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), small-scale fishers and small-scale aquaculture are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Their vulnerability is a result of both their geographical location as well as their poverty situation. Being located at the waterfront, fishing and fish farming communities are exposed to climate-related extreme events and natural hazards, such as hurricanes, cyclones, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, floods, and coastal erosion.
According to the definition set by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), small-scale fishers are those who use fishing boats of three gross tons or less. They are also known as municipal fisherfolk.
Small-scale fisher Rene Monzon, 52, used to fish in the waters of Tanza in the 1980s, coming back after an hour with more than 15 kilos. The fish catch was enough to feed his family and make some money from selling to neighbors.
“Catching the same amount of fish these days is highly unusual. Now, we need to borrow money so we can buy a machine for our boats and the fishing area is farther. It takes a long time, we spend a lot, and we earn so little,” Monzon stressed.
In 2017, Barangay Julugan experienced an incident of a fishkill in which more than50 buckets of small and juvenile fish had been collected by the residents living near the coastal area.
According to BFAR Senior Aquaculturist Marinel Punsalan, more than 50 buckets of fish, composed of small fishes such as sapsap, danggit, and kabayad, had been collected by the residents living near the coastal area of Barangay Julugan.
“It occurred due to the sudden change of temperature. The warm weather and the sudden rain could affect the salinity of seawater leading to oxygen depletion that caused further stress to the small fishes,” Punsalan stated.
The UN also concluded that the warming of the planet will hit the poor the hardest, particularly those who depend on agriculture and fisheries for income and subsistence.
“Climate change will create new poor between now and 2100, in low-, medium-, and high-income countries and jeopardize sustainable development,” reads the second report released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014.
The poor are less equipped to adapt their way of life and livelihood to climate change and are less able to bounce back after the phenomenon’s effects hit them.
Hence, the panel recommends building resilience among the poor as one way to help them adapt to climate change.
“The decline in fish stocks over the last 40 years in our town has created a burden in our lives. We earn less and are forced to shift to other means of livelihood to survive,” Rene said.
Rene concluded that we can create a safer and more resilient future if we work together to rethink the way we protect our environment and help us prepare for inevitable change.
This article was written and prepared by Julianne Marchela Parin (Student-Journalist) and Arlene dela Costa (School Paper Adviser) from Tanza National Comprehensive High School, Division of Cavite as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.
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