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November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) brought massive destructions in Eastern Visayas and nearby regions, leaving thousands of people dead and millions of people affected whose homes were damaged and livelihoods imperiled. Indeed, the world’s climate is changing. These changes tooka vast impact on our ecosystems, human civilization and society. Nowadays, human-induced activities are altering the world’s climate such as increasing the atmospheric concentration of energy-trapping gases, thereby amplifying the natural greenhouse effect that makes the Earth warm. With these undertaking, now comes the never-ending controversy of Climate Change.

Climate change represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet. It is the long-term change in average weather conditions, including temperature, precipitation and wind. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is already apparent as evidenced by higher temperatures, rising sea levels, increased ocean acidity and ice melt. It is a worldwide phenomenon that we can no longer prevent as its effects have become increasingly noticeable.

Dr. Jose Ingles on Climate Change and Fisheries

Dr. Jose Ingles on Climate Change and Fisheries

Due to its wide-ranging effects, coastal and marine resources including those fishing families in coastal communities are threatened. Threats include elevated sea level, which may kill coral reefs and other living communities that constitute habitat for fish and shellfish; most traditional fishing grounds are overfished or fully fished thus making it harder for fisherfolk to bounce from disasters; aquaculture investments are becoming risky thus making low profit margins;increased stream temperatures, episodic flooding, saltwater intrusion in heretofore freshwater systems, all of which can reduce the productivity of spawning and rearing waters; and lower pH (decreased alkalinity) of seawater to the point where calciferous zooplankton and shellfish cannot survive. As a result, artisanal fisherfolk across the globe are highly vulnerable to its consequences as compared to other people living nearby their settlements due to their high dependency with the environment and its resources.

Nevertheless, climate change adaptation and mitigation are efficient means to help reduce the risks of this marvel.United Nations IPCC clearly defines climate change adaptation as the ability of a system to adjust to climate change in order to reduce its vulnerability, and enhance the resilience to observed and anticipated impacts of climate change. On the other hand, mitigation refers to any strategy or action taken to remove the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, or to reduce their amount.

For fisheries management, adaptation can be planned or autonomous,for instance spontaneous response to environmental change or planned action based on climate-induced changes. It may be changing the timing or locations of fishing as species arrive earlier/later or shift to new areas. Finding species resistant to salinity and temperature fluctuations for aquacultureon the other handis planned adaptation.A variety of governance actions and policy, specific technical support or community capacity building activities that address multiple sectors, not just capture fisheries or aquaculture farmerscan be included as adaptation in fisheries and aquaculture.

Although adaptation is context-specific, there are a number of adaptation activities that can be applied in most fisheries and aquaculture settings. These include:

  • Reduce external stressors on natural systems. Reduce land-based sources of pollution and destructive fishing practices (e.g. fishing with explosives and poisons).
  • Improve safety at sea due to increased storm severity as well as improved early warning and forecasting systems for severe weather events,investmentsin safer ports and landings and measuresis necessary. Adequate onshore storage facilities for boats and gear can prevent loss or damage from storms and extreme events.
  • Enhancing Resiliency measures such as promoting disaster risk management in general including disaster preparedness and protective infrastructure such as hard options like seawalls and flood reservoirs, or soft options such as buffer zones via afforestation or reforestation of mangroves.
  • Mainstreaming by integrating fisheries and aquaculture sectors fully into climate change adaptation and food security policies at the national level to ensure incorporation into broader development planning.
  • Capacity building. Partnerships between private, public, civil society and NGO sectors are dynamic for holistic climate change adaptation planning. Therefore,civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government organizations need to be involved in climate change planning.
  • Recognition and innovation of opportunities. New opportunities may become obtainable, for example, the promotion of aquaculture-based livelihoods where channel areas have been inundated and agriculture is no longer possible.
  • Linking local, national and regional policies and programs will mean greater networks. Climate change will affect poverty, food security, infrastructure and other sectors within and between countries. In addition, climate change will probably cause spatial displacement of both aquatic resources and people, requiring strong regional structures to address these changes and their implications.
  • Spatial planning. This comprises marine and terrestrial zoning for siting of aquaculture facilities (sub-tidal and terrestrial systems) and mangrove areas to balance aquaculture needs with land-dwelling development and shoreline protection with rising sea level.
  • Addressing Ghost fishing. Lost gear can cause mortality and habitat damagebecause of theincrease storm brutality. Nevertheless, there are some measures that can reduce their impacts. A gear retrieval program is one, and certain gear could be designed to minimize impacts if lost.
  • Policy and management considerations. Standard practice adoption for improved fisheries and aquaculture management and integrated coastal management for coastal and near shore fisheries can improve resilience and increase system adaptability. Policies that are flexible and support easier entry and exit into new fisheries and out of those that are declining can ease both socio-economic impacts from changing fisheries and also prevent overfishing of the edges of stocks as they move away (Pinsky and Fogarty, 2012). Overall, capacity reductions and the removal of incentives for overfishing are vital to ensuring sustainable fisheries.

These are only few of the numerous adaptation strategies and practices that multiple sectors at the present time continue to promote and advocate. Innovative and new policies have been already developed toempower coastal communities and marginalized sectors in the fishing industry. One is the Community-Based Coastal Resource Management (CB-CRM), an approach that centers on the role of communities in the management of their resourcesand their rights to enjoy the benefits resulting from their collective action.The rights and interests of these indigenous peoples and local communities must be at the center of any successful and sustainable policy to address marine and coastal degradation and deforestation. That is whyTambuyog Development Center, a non-government organization founded in 1984 as a result of research and organizing in Lingayen, Pangasinan by the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Community Development is appealing for attention to the declining fishery resources and unabated poverty in coastal communities through interdisciplinary research, creative information and education campaign, community organizing, policy advocacy, constituency building, community enterprise development andeven gender inequality for women who are oftentimes misinterpreted, miscalculated and considered“the invisible fisherfolks”.  As diverse as the women’s role in fishing activities and their multiple task in ensuring the survival of their fishing households, almost always their participation are not counted in the final production outputs, because women are reflected only extensions of their male counterpart.

Organize interdependent communities of empowered women and men sharing responsibility and enjoying benefits from the sustainable management and development of Philippine Fisheries are part of Tambuyog Development Center’s vision. One of their missions is to contribute to the empowerment of fisherfolks by developing broad and dynamic unity among stakeholders in fisheries development at the local and national levels towards community property rights. Finally, their ultimate goal is to reinvigorate CB-CRM practices and work towards an enabling policy environment with emphasis on optimizing benefits from community property rights and improving market access for women and men engaged in municipal fisheries in the Philippines. This shall be achieved by strengthening fisherfolks organizations of women and men, building networks and alliances, advocating policy changes, shaping public opinion and facilitating timely and relevant information flows.

Almost two years after the Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan),survivors especially fisherfolks are still on the battle of an interminable issue on rehabilitation and recovery. The Department of Agriculture projected that 202,410 fishing households were affected in Central Visayas and Northern Palawan. Fisherfolk communities were given support by the government, citizen organizations, and the private sector in boat repairs and new fishing gears. However, fishers are still facing declining catch after the typhoon damaged fishing grounds and the marine ecosystem.

A 40-meter no-build zone policy was issued last March by Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR). The agency later backtracked on this policy after critics pointed out that this does not consider the means of supportthrough livelihood and geo-hazards in different areas. OPARR later committed to a Joint Memorandum Order together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of National Defense on safe, unsafe, and controlled zones but this has not been issued yet.

The Local Government Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (LRRP’s)   for Cebu, Iloilo, Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Tacloban City have already been approved by the President. As of July 2014, the Government Clusters have vetted the LRRPs for the remaining provinces of Palawan, Masbate, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Biliran, Southern Leyte, and Dinagat Islands. For infrastructure, the primary goal is to build back better by rehabilitating and improving infrastructure to support recovery and rehabilitation as well as the enhancement of disaster resiliency of affected communities.Correspondingly, social services cluster aims to facilitate delivery of basic services such as education, health, and social protection services to affected communities as well as provide healthy environment and strengthen capacity to cope future hazards and disasters. Resettlement and livelihood cluster plan, on the other hand targets to relocate affected families living in hazard prone areas to safe areas and to develop sustainable and disaster resilient settlements in orderto achieve inclusive and sustainable business for their livelihoods.

Completed rehabilitation of the ports of Naval and Cuyo; and Kalibo International airport; ongoing rehabilitation of airports of Tacloban City, Roxas, Busuanga, Ormoc, Guiuan; completed rehabilitation of 13 health facilities and ongoing repair of 27 health facilities; ongoing rehabilitation of 5 halls of justice; 51.82 km of Farm-to-Market Road completed and ongoing rehabilitation of 173.97 km; ongoing repair of 6 Communal Irrigation Systems covering 1,208 hectares;support to fisheries and aquaculture (provision of fishing boats, motor engines, fishing gears and other paraphernalia, seaweed dryers and seaweed farm implements; aquaculture rehabilitation and development) were presented on the status report of theOffice of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) as of July 2014.

All these issues and advocacy calls, may it be from fisherfolks, farmers or any other sectoral groups were never given importance (if given, taken for granted) only until Typhoon Yolanda came that it turn out to be a prevailing noise. Almost two years from now when the strongest storm in recent history has brought the strongest act of humanity, embracing a nation of survivors and while we continue battling on these several arguments, the question still remains: Where are we now?

“Climate change is not a challenge. It is an opportunity. We need to stop thinking about climate change as an “environmentalist” concern, and start thinking about it as a “kids-and-grandkids” concern. We need YOU to make this happen!”

–          Dr.Jose A. Ingles

 Article written by Ms. Hannah Hippe


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