Kamaka village has dollar signs in its eyes. Its reputation of being financially opportunistic is well known throughout neighboring communities of Triton Bay, Indonesia. One of Kamaka’s town leaders relentlessly collects fees for any access to village waters. Rare Conservation Fellow Wida Sulistyaningrum recently spoke to him and was pleased to learn that he has been rejecting offers of payment. “The leader said ‘no’ to boats because we had declared it a no-take zone and we do not use nets anymore,” says Sulistyaningrum. “It is a good thing for the campaign.”
Sulistyaningrum and nine other conservationists in Indonesia and Timor-Leste partnered with Rare to learn social marketing tools and systems to lead change in their communities. The ten fellows recently celebrated the completion of Rare’s two-year training and implementation program. All ten Pride campaigns built a sense of ownership around fishery management. Though each fellow confronted different hurdles and achieved a range of successes, they all managed to inspire fishing-dependent villages to take pride in their marine resources. Combined, the fellows facilitated the declaration, implementation or design of 32 no-take zones covering a total of 65,000 hectares (or about twice the size of Rhode Island). Now, 13 new fellows from Indonesia and Malaysia have joined the next class to further improve prospects for coastal fisheries in the Coral Triangle, and they expect to launch their public outreach campaigns this June.
“When I started the campaign, I felt nervous because I didn’t have experience or skills in communication,” says Sulistyaningrum. “Rare gave me a lot of tools and skills to approach the community in a fun way.” She and her colleagues at Conservation International had been working for years to gain the trust of the communities on the coast of Triton Bay. In the past, she presented to local stakeholders telling them what their problems were and how to fix them. Those meetings did not go well. Now she asks the community to identify their own issues and involves them in creating and executing the solutions. The community now feels invested in sustaining their livelihoods.
Her suggestion to the people of Triton Bay had been to establish one no-take zone, but after a series of meetings and events, the community asked to close off a total of four areas to fishing. “It was a big surprise,” says Sulistyaningrum. “That is the biggest success of my campaign.”
She aimed for a 20 percent reduction of fishers entering the no-take zones. In Kamaka, surveys already show a 33 percent decline. At a recent meeting, community members asked Sulistyaningrum about building a patrol post on a central island to guard the no-take zones. She explained that funds were limited. But the community told her they would provide the materials and funds, if she would lend technical support. “I tell them they are the role model for other communities who now also want to set up no-take zones,” says Sulistyaningrum. “The people are really proud of what they have done.”
Sulistyaningrum chokes back tears as she talks about her vision for Triton Bay and its people — with whom she has built a strong bond and trust. “I hope they become a fish kingdom,” says Sulistyaningrum. She wants them to continue living according to local traditions and feed themselves from the sea.
Her hard work, combined with the pioneering spirit of the people of Triton Bay, may already be paying off. Early indications at one site show a five-fold increase in the snapper population. Recently, an elderly fisher approached Sulistyaningrum and excitedly told her, “Ma’am, last week we had lots of fish near the village. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”
The islanders of Hambongan, Philippines keep no secrets. The 643 inhabitants are virtually all related. The clichéd white sand beaches and azure waters that shift hues with drifting clouds belie a cruel, well-known reality. In recent decades, fish catches have plummeted and the fishers have responded with dynamite. Deep cracks in the elementary school’s walls evidence the desperate and dangerous ramifications of the blasts. The people of Hambongan have always fished these crystalline waters. They know no other way of life.
About a decade ago, a marine sanctuary was declared near the shores of Hambongan to protect reefs and replenish fish. Illegal fishing has continued relatively unchecked among the tight-knit community. Rare Conservation Fellow Renante “Tian” Cempron, a former youth leader and the tenth child of a fisherman, has spent the last two years promoting sustainable fishing in Hambongan. Rare recently spoke with Cempron about his campaign.
What makes you most proud of your hard work over the past two years?
For me, I am proud of the connection I have made with the community, of which I am a part. The campaign helped people realize that the time is now to act because resources are not infinite. The campaign really engaged people and helped them realize the ocean is something to cherish because the sea is their livelihood.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned from Rare?
I learned the most efficient and cost-effective way to send a message. You do not need to engage a lot of people or a lot of resources. I also learned how to move people from one stage of behavior to another. I do not know if I could have learned that without Rare.
What is the biggest success of your campaign?
The fish abundance increased and the fish biomass increased. One fisher I spoke to told me that before the campaign, he could barely catch a kilogram of fish a day. Now he can catch one fish that is over a kilogram. His catch is still small, but the size is bigger. He used to harvest 200 kilograms of seaweed and now it has almost doubled to 350 kilograms.
What is next for you?
After the campaign, I hope that my site will be a pilot site and expand to adjacent areas. I hope the nearly 2,000 marine sanctuaries in the Philippines will be managed effectively and contribute to more fish and maybe fish forever for us.
*Photo: Wilda Sulistyaningrum maps no-take zones with local fishermen.
In 2010, collaborating with local and international partners, Rare launched its most ambitious project ever: reducing overfishing at 22 sites in the Coral Triangle. Overfishing in the Coral Triangle threatens not only the richest concentration of marine biodiversity in the world but also the livelihoods and food source of more than 120 million people.
On June 17, 2011, the heads of villages, government officials, community members as well as staff from Rare and CI gathered for a traditional ceremony, an Adat, to formally declare the no-take zones that were proposed to help improve the prospects for coastal fisheries in the Coral Triangle.
Only one year later, the success of these no-take zones has transformed and inspired pride in these coastal Indonesian communities. Rare Conservation Fellow Wilda Sulistyaningrum, who works with the Triton Bay communities, initially aimed for a 20 percent reduction of fishers entering the no-take zones. In Kamaka, surveys already show a 33 percent decline. At a recent meeting, community members asked Sulistyaningrum about building a patrol post on a central island to guard the no-take zones. She explained that funds were limited, but the community told her they would provide the materials and funds, if she would lend her technical support.
"I tell them they are the role model for other communities who now also want to set up no-take zones. The people are really proud of what they have done" says Sulistyaningrum. She wants them to continue living according to local traditions and feed themselves from the sea.
All the hard work seems to be paying off. Early indications at one site show a five-fold increase in the snapper population. Recently, an elderly fisher approached Sulistyaningrum and excitedly told her, "Ma'am, last week we had lots of fish near the village. That hasn't happened in a long time."
Rare Fact: The larger a fish is allowed to grow, the more eggs it is able to produce. For example, one snapper weighing 11kg produces the same number of eggs as 250 snappers weighing 1.1 Kg each!
The squeals of screaming schoolgirls reverberated throughout the packed auditorium as a troop of Filipino dancers interpreted the significance of the ocean and marine biodiversity. On October 25, Rare Conservation Fellow Renante “Tian” Cempron kicked off a campaign to protect the marine resources of his community, Inabanga, in a performance-packed day.
“Dance routines are very popular in the Philippines,” says Rare’s senior program manager Brooke Sadowsky. A float introduced the campaign mascot, Meloy, the lovable panther grouper that is now a local celebrity. The rhythmic procession moved through the mid-morning swelter with an energy seldom seen in Inabanga. When the parade reached the municipal auditorium, the 2,000 seats were filled; the basketball courts accommodated the overflow. “You could really feel the pulse of the community,” says Sadowsky.
Perhaps the youngest mayor ever elected in the Philippines (21 when elected in 2007), Honorable Jose Jono Jumamoy, belied his youth with a commanding eloquence as the cheers quieted for a moment of sobriety. The entire municipal government, as well as thousands of community members, stood with their right hands raised to declare their commitment to protect marine resources and pledged to call or text 09176311963, an anonymous hotline, to report illegal fishing incidents inside the marine sanctuary. Two days later the hotline received several anonymous texts resulting in apprehensions for the use of illegal nets. The number of reports have more than doubled since the event. Although the hotline has existed for over a year, a fear of retaliation filled the community since most of the illegal fishers are community members. “We have really emphasized confidentiality,” says Cempron. “Law enforcers cannot do it on their own. We need the whole community.”
In coastal towns like Inabanga throughout the Philippines, families rely on fishing for food and supplemental, if not all, income. Human pressures have resulted in smaller fish and smaller catches, forcing many to resort to illegal and dangerous fishing techniques like dynamite fishing. The most memorable moment of the day for Cempron was during the awards ceremony when Rare CEO Brett Jenks presented a plaque of recognition to Jesus Sucajel for his contributions to the campaign. Sucajel was a renowned illegal fisher in the village. He habitually ignited bombs on the reefs to increase his catch and decrease time spent out at sea. He started to see the negative impacts of his actions and decided to change his ways and help conserve marine resources. He is now a coastal enforcer championing the messages of the campaign to protect the reef so that fish stocks will rebound and continue to sustain the community. “It was the only time in his life that he received an award,” says Cempron.
As the sun set and the day’s activities wound down, Cempron reflected on the success of his hard work in a joyful exhaustion. “One teacher told me that she has attended many events and conventions,” says Cempron. “But she said that my campaign launch was the most memorable.”
The heavy rains did not relent for the milestone ceremony declaring four new no-fishing zones and one limited-fishing area in the spectacular southern section of Bird’s Head Seascape known as Triton Bay in West Papua, Indonesia. Rare Conservation Fellow Wida Sulistyaningrum had been working for years with her colleagues at Conservation International (CI) to gain the trust of the coastal communities. And only three months into her Pride campaign (Rare’s signature program that engages the community to build pride around unique natural assets) the communities themselves asked for the declaration of the protected areas. “Pride was an accelerant to the process,” says Eleanor Carter, Rare’s program director in Indonesia.
Sulistyaningrum explains that CI had been working in the area for four years, and though most of the villages wanted to create the no-take zones (areas where fishing is prohibited) there was one village that resisted. After persistent meetings with Sulistyaningrum, community forums and visits from government officials, the villagers finally united. They not only acquiesced to the creation of no-take zones, they asked that they be established immediately. During a training session on the benefits of marine protected areas in late May, the participants told Sulistyaningrum they wanted to bypass some of the formal next steps and just declare the no-take zones so that they could start demarcating the boundaries and patrolling the seas. “They were really anxious to declare the no-take zones,” says Sulistyaningrum. “It is really important to protect this area because it has one of the most beautiful coral reefs and we think that it is a spawning aggregation site.” On June 17th, in a torrential downpour, the heads of villages, government officials, community members as well as staff from Rare and CI gathered for a traditional ceremony, an Adat, to formally declare the no-take zones.
Local blessings sanctioned the protection of the areas with the implication that if someone were then to disobey the rules they would get a “mystic punishment”. A large billboard was also signed and placed prominently as a reminder of the no-take zones and their significance for the community. “The declarations in Triton Bay are the direct result of the Rare campaign conducted by Wida Sulistyaningrum,” says Mark Erdmann CI’s senior advisor for the Indonesia marine program. “It is a tribute to the tireless efforts of Wida and the CI team to develop strong community ownership over the management of their marine resources. I’ve been delighted to see Wida’s skills in social marketing and community outreach develop so impressively over the duration of her Rare fellowship, and we’re delighted to now have this skill set within our team.” Following numerous speeches and the signing of documents, villagers served local cuisine. Traditional dancing affirmed the stakeholders’ support and enthusiasm. The community’s commitment encourages Sulistyaningrum to move on to the challenges of building a system for the community to manage their fisheries, demarcating the no-take zones, patrolling them and enforcing them. “They are still waiting for the campaign promise that no-take zones will benefit them in the future,” says Yayat Afianto, Rare program manager in Indonesia. “We have to prove it.”
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