Posted by: Jimely Flores | March 23, 2013

Is the future is bleak?

I woke up refreshed, despite the ants all over the room (I have a severe allergy reaction to ant’s bite). Apparently, these ants are more interested with the content of my bag (which I am so glad of, despite having loss the chance of eating my pancake squash I cooked and packed especially for this trip).

Having no breakfast to eat and the canteen of the inn still close, I snatched my camera quiet quickly in the bag (have to be quick so as to not disturb the ants) and went trotting to the beach. I am a fisheries biology practitioner and always attracted to fishing activities, which I immediately spotted despite having not brought my eyeglasses. A family is casting net into the waters; from the shore to about waist-deep. This fishing activity is called surrounding gillnet and is very common in the coastal areas where the tidal flat is wide. The net is about a 100-meters long at most 200 but this one is just a 100, with a height of half-a-meter. In here there are 2 adults and 2 kids, the adults set the net while the kids hold both ends. Shown below is the net just laid out and soon to be hauled into the shore. Hauling is done at both ends. One adult pulling at each end of the net while the kids go into the water to help maintain the shape of the net, ensure the net will not get entangled, and help stir the surroundings.

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One operation (setting through hauling) lasts for about (at most) 30minutes or less. Below is a picture of the catch with the kids sorting. The relatively big enough fishes would be picked while the rest will be left behind for the cats, dogs, chickens and other animals. The composition of the catch are all immature fishes and different variety of shells, seagrasses, sometimes corals, sea stars, sea urchins, little crabs and other organisms that were not able to escape.

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Its sad but this family needs to eat. I sat down with the kids and talked with them. Asked them, if this is for breakfast, the oldest looked at me and said it is good for a day’s meals. Just to be sure, i dumbly ask, does that mean breakfast, lunch and dinner today and they all answered yes in a chorus.

The biologist part of me said this is not right but my human mind understands. Are they the exploiters or just the victims? I further asked them if they are going to school, the oldest said “No, not anymore because she has to help her mother in washing clothes for the rich in town.” Only the two younger kids attend school.

I felt sorry for them, and for their future.  I know that their situation represents most of our coastal communities. The activists are shouting to stop overfishing (this is definitely growth overfishing) – taking baby fishes before they have time to reproduce at least once. Reforms and policies are mostly in the industrial fisheries sector and these small ones are ignored on the pretense that they are insignificant and small enough. But I do not think so, there are many of them, that needed help and education. The only way to solve overfishing is to look at them with clear eyes, start implementing reforms and policies and honest-to-goodness economic help. No dole-outs please.

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