Social marketing techniques and more sustainable fishery management

Rocky Sanchez Tirona (Philippines) and Taufiq Alimi (Indonesia)

Rocky Sanchez Tirona (Philippines) and Taufiq Alimi (Indonesia), RARE vice-presidents; Photo: Oliver Hölcke / IKI

The project “Scaling up innovative, community-based protection of coastal biodiversity in Indonesia, Philippines, and Pacific” is financed by the IKI of the German Environment Ministry. It combines information and training activities for stakeholders in local communities with specific technical activities aimed at the development and management of marine protected areas and the establishment of exclusive fishing rights for local communities. Rocky Sanchez Tirona is Vice President of the implementing organization rare and works in the Philippines and Micronesia. Her colleague Taufiq Alimi is also Vice President in Indonesia. Both talked to IKI about their experiences with the project.

What kind of challenges are your countries facing?

school children outdoor with mascotRT: The Philippines is an archipelago but it’s difficult to get good estimates of the total protected areas out of 36,000 kilometres of coastline. A large number of the over 100 million people population are highly dependent on the ocean for their livelihood and food. 1.3 of the 1.6 million fishers are small-scale fishers. This puts a lot of pressure on the resources. We have seen cases of illegal fishing and habitats being destroyed. At the same time, we have made a great deal of progress in managing protected areas. There are 1,600 locally managed protected areas, but most are very small. Each of the municipalities has the mandate to manage its fisheries, but many do not have sufficient capacity or the right scientific expertise to manage them properly.  There is also the need to address the behaviour of the fishers, who, because of declining fish stock and increasing population, could be overfishing or using unsustainable practices.

TA: The situation in Indonesia is a little bit better in terms of the government target and measurement on Marine Protected Areas (MPA) management goal. We have 16.6 million hectares of MPAs from the targeted 20 million hectares of effectively managed protected areas by 2020 and by 2030 we like to meet the Aichi target of having 10% of the total coastal and marine area designated as protected areas. In our case, that would be close to 30 million hectares. Indonesia has a population of 250 million. Of the 3.6 million fishers, 90% are small-scale fishers, who have small, shallow draught boats. Fishing is the life blood of the poorest of the poor communities in Indonesia. We are also facing the challenge of overfishing, with people tending to fish more than the official maximum limit. The lack of data means that people do not understand the limits on where they can fish and how much they can fish. Legislation on illegal and imported facilities and vessels was not enforced properly. The current administration has been working with the navy and the police and has succeeded in reducing the number of illegal fishers. Illegal fishing was reduced but the behaviour of the fishers remains unchanged.

Three fishermen in a scmall-scale-boat

What is the direction of travel of your work?

RT: We have launched campaigns in the Philippines to change behaviour and have started using social marketing techniques to help people to see the benefits of marine protected areas and understand why it is important to support them and follow the rules, such as not using certain types of gear and reducing their fishing effort.

TA: Initially, these communities were not really happy with all the rules and restrictions. But our model tries to touch people’s hearts and among other things, through getting the children to exert pressure. For example, we created mascots that would not be out of place in Disneyland but actually represent fish and other animals that are in danger of extinction. When our mascots appear in the schools, the children start to ask questions about who these characters are and why have they come to their school. We explain the situation and then the adults as well as the children start to understand. They ask what they can do to help these fish, for example. We started with our campaign using ads, posters, radio, and songs. After one year we have adoption of new behavior of 20% of the fishers. 15 communities we are working with are already using sustainable fishing. They have created 23 fishers working groups to manage their fishery sustainably. school children outdoor with mascot

RT: Our initial approach worked and now we are thinking about the next level, about how the fishers really benefit from this. We call the work we are doing right now ‘Fish Forever.’ It involves setting up managed accessed areas around the no-take zones, where only a certain group of fishers are allowed to fish in exchange for following the rules and respecting a more sustainable fishery management approach. That’s a powerful new incentive. This process took us about a year of working with several communities and we now have five municipalities that have legally adopted these managed accessed areas. Our target is by to have 20 of these areas by the middle of this year.

TA: We are also introducing technical solutions by building capacity for local partners and institutions. We provide training and equip them with skills that enable them to stay in their home town forever. That is one way we guarantee sustainability.  We started our campaign using adverts, posters, the radio, songs. After one year, 20% of the fishers have adopted new behaviour patterns. 15% of the communities we work with are already practicing sustainable fishing.  

Are you also following a multi-level approach?

TA: The fact of the matter is that the communities really have to change and we give them the know-how to do this. Sometimes this doesn’t necessarily match the existing legal infrastructure or the policies of the district or national government. There are some enabling rules and regulations but they are not clear enough to guide and enact communities to implement sustainable fishery. Government support is needed to enforce these restrictions. We and the communities are working with governmental institutions to build a forum where these issues can be discussed. Finally, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries has responded to the demand of the local districts and passed guidelines on how to grant fishery management rights.

RT: The situation in the Philippines is slightly different. Each of the municipalities is allowed to adopt these policies and enable the managed accessed areas to be set up. I think what we are looking at now in terms of the multi-level approach is how to replicate the model and scale it up. The provincial governments and the regional agencies in areas where we have been working are starting to realise how successful the approach has been and are interested in replicating it at more sites. We are working hand in hand with them to try and achieve this.

Group of men at a beach under palm trees

Where do you see a connection between your work and climate change?

RT: We can see that protecting our fisheries and marine resources has an impact and helps to increase the communities’ capacity to adapt to climate change. For example, there are a lot of farmers who are also part-time fishers. After typhoon Haiyan devastated most of their land in 2013, they had to go fishing because it was their only source of food. They were able to see for themselves how important it is to protect marine resources.

TA: One of the main things that happen when a typhoon hits the Philippines is that it creates tidal waves that affect areas near the coast. So the lesson our fishers learned is that if you have healthy fishing grounds near the coast you don’t need to go out onto the rough open sea.

What role does religion play in your work with local people?

TA: In Christian areas, we used the example of Jesus Christ not fishing on Saturdays. Some communities agreed to reduce their fishing operations by not fishing over the weekend to give the fish two days to recover. At some of the villages that we work with there were reports that their catches have improved from only 1.6 kg per hour to 4.9 kg per hour after just two years of the programme. 
We worked with religious leaders and came up with a really nice and helpful solution for a good purpose. There are numerous ceremonies and religious teachings that could be used to advance our programme.

RT: Many of the RARE Fellows involved in the campaigns are using religion in their work to help them communicate. For example, one of our sites is Ipil, which is the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay province. It has a significant number of indigenous people, Catholics and Muslims and religious tensions has been noted in that region. It turned out that our programme has also been useful there in promoting peace. Representatives of all three religions, united by a desire to take care of the ocean, came together and reached consensus on a common desire to protect the marine sanctuary. They are carrying out activities together such as planting mangroves and cleaning up the ocean.  Even the posters and billboards developed by the site partners featured this concept of unity.

Fisher in a small-scale-boat