A child plays on the shores of Barangay Sugod in Tiwi, Albay, beside tuna fishingboats docked for the low season. Though tuna season in Lagonoy Gulf lasts foronly a few months, mainly from September until about January, fishermen canearn enough from tuna fishing to support themselves throughout the year.Between seasons, they catch other fish or engage in work like construction toearn extra money.
Sofronio “Jun” Kallos Jr., a tuna buyer and financier fromBarangay Sugod in Tiwi, Albay, shows off the scale with whichhe weighs the fishermen’s catch at his ‘casa’ or landing station.This ‘casa’ was built in 1998, and was originally just athatched-roof hut. Today, there is a styrofoam storagecontainer to keep the fish in ice before it is transported tobuyers. As a financier, Kallos lends money to fishermen whoneed funds in the off-season—debts which are quickly repaidonce they begin catching tuna, Kallos assures.
A fish seller chops freshlydelivered tuna at the market inTabaco, Albay. Like in mostcoastal communities in theCoral Triangle, tuna is animportant and affordableprotein source and staple foodin Tiwi, and has been caught inthe waters of Lagonoy Gulf forgenerations, fishermen recount.
Vendors arranging the produce at the public market in Tabaco, Albay. Tunacaught in Lagonoy Gulf is brought to small fish landings in Tiwi and Tabacobefore it is taken to the market or transported to buyers elsewhere. A goalof the fishery improvement project is to build infrastructure and establishmore efficient delivery systems so the supply can quickly reach exportersand larger markets, as well.
Tiwi Municipal Agricultural Officer Leonila Coralde shows off a chartof the species of tuna caught in Lagonoy Gulf, what she calls “a mainhighway for migratory species, including tuna.”Coralde was an agri-technologist with the local government in 1991, when fishermenstarted complaining about dwindling catch. Information campaignsand regular policing have since helped curb illegal fishing practices inTiwi.
Tiwi Mayor Jaime Villanuevahas earned the respect of WWFand project partners for hisactive protection of marineresources—“even when that’snot what politicians usually doto win votes,” he says with alaugh. Villanueva, who is on hislast term as Mayor, was amunicipal councilor when hepushed for the establishment ofTiwi’s first marine sanctuary.Among his first moves after hiselection was to empower thesea patrols and get Tiwi’sfishermen and their vesselsregistered and licensed.
Jose Condat, “Manoy Joe” to all and sundry, a 64-year-old fisherman from Barangay Putsanin Tiwi and a volunteer member of the Bantay Dagat (sea patrol), tends to the patrol boat. Afisherman since 1963, he has headed several small fishermen’s associations. During highseason, the team patrols five days a week, on 24-hour shifts. He sometimes lets first-timeoffenders get off with a warning when they are caught, Manoy Joe reveals, but repeatoffenders bear the brunt of the law, and cases are filed against them.
A fisherman holds up a juvenile yellow fin tunacaught by a commercial fishing vessel. Thecatching of juvenile tuna before they reachreproductive age is one of the biggest threatsto tuna stocks and population healthworldwide, says Coral Triangle ProgrammeTuna Strategy Leader Jose Ingles. Unrelentingdemand for tuna has led to such aggressiveand unsustainable practices that are leavingtuna populations with little time to recoverfrom the massive fishing.
Fishermen aboard a commercial vessel weigh fish caught during a fishing expedition to Tiwi, Albay. By law, commercial fishing boats have to keepa specified distance from the boundaries of municipal waters, which are the domain ofregistered local fishermen. Still, the impact of such large-scale fishing operations and their more efficient gear on artisanal handline fishermen cannot be ignored.
The crew of a commercial fishing boatdocked off Barangay San Roque inTabaco, Albay deliver their packed andweighed catch to the market. Largerboats head out to fishing grounds as faras Rapu-Rapu Reef and Catanduanes, inopen sea, to catch tuna. Still, localfishermen express concern that sincetuna are migratory, constantly movingspecies, many fish are caught by thebigger boats even before they get to thecommunity’s municipal waters.
Fisherman Loreto Bollosa, afisherman in BarangayFatima, Tabaco, Albay, and his wifeLeonilda have reason to smile, asthey built this concrete house fromhis earnings as a tuna fisherman.Behind the house, the couplemaintains a small piggery toaugment their income off-season.Bollosa’s earnings have beenenough to send most of their ninechildren to school. Now, “It’s thekids who send us money when weneed it,” Bollosa says. “That’s why Inever wanted any of them to followin my footsteps, because fishing is ahard life.”
A handline fisherman does his solitary work underthe gaze of a lovely Mayon Volcano in BarangaySugod, Tiwi, Albay. Tiwi has over 60,000 hectares ofmunicipal waters and 17,000 kilometers of coastline.Along with Occidental Mindoro, another Philippineprovince, this area, which sits in the rich fishinggrounds of the Lagonoy Gulf, has been identified as afisheries development site, to support the work ofhandline fishermen.
A fisherman prepares his handline fishing gear in BarangaySugod, Tiwi, Albay. Using only a bit of bait (chopped fish, usually smallertuna) tied to a weight and a nylon string, handline fishing is a traditionalmethod that involves catching only one fish at a time. It is widely used bysmall-scale fishermen all over the Coral Triangle, as it is both low-impact andinexpensive.