With a new floating watchtower, signs, equipment, and training to protect mangrove and marine areas, community members here will enforce fishing restrictions in large marine area that is home to endangered dugongs, green and hawksbill sea turtles, and the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin.
The Malampaya Sound is part of a large protected area around Palawan Island that includes mangrove forests, coral reefs, and seagrass meadows. It is home to species restricted to Palawan, a number of which are threatened or endangered.
The sound is a bountiful fishing ground, and fishing is the primary occupation of about 70 percent of the people who live in the municipality. The area’s population has grown in recent years, leading to damaging competition for resources. There has been a surge in illegal fishing, sometimes involving the use of fine-mesh nets, dynamite, or chemicals.
Local fisherfolk, most of whom are women, rightly see overfishing as a serious threat to their livelihoods and futures and have worked on conservation with the Philippines Department of Natural Resources and other entities. They will be a crucial part of monitoring and enforcement efforts; 20 fishers will receive training in environmental law enforcement, leadership, and ridge-to-reef ecosystem management.
The prominent new floating watchtower will, by its presence alone, help to deter illegal fishers. It will be put up between two islands, and it can be moved to a safe docking area during typhoons. Trained volunteers will occupy the watchtower 24/7, on a rotating basis. Big new signs at the entrance to the visitors center and other sites will provide interpretive information and remind people of the fishing rules.
Fishers will also monitor the sound in their own boats. When they spot illegal activity, they will notify authorities and if necessary, request backup from the barangay, coast guard, or Department of Natural Resources. Grant funds will provide equipment such as binoculars, life vests, and two-way radios.