In late August of this year, RVS Fishworld together with the Philippine national fisheries department spearheaded the first ever net training program in Santa Ana in the North of the country. The net-training program was financed primarily by RVS with smaller contributions from several other industry donors, and it succeeded in training nearly forty fishermen in the region who previously had no form of income as sustainable as net-caught fish.
For around $500 per diver-collector, the new sustainable initiative taught the divers to use only nets to collect fish while diving the reef, as well as important skills like maintaining their nets, and repairing them when they invariably experience some damage through regular use. For a country that is plagued by rampant use of cyanide to catch fish for the food and aquarium market, the instruction on how to use fish nets to catch ornamental reef fish is practically the only suitable way to provide income for coastal island communities, while also having minimal impact on the natural reef.
The impetus for the net training program is part of a push by RVS Fishworld for the Philippines to require licensing for both ornamental fish collectors, and the boats from which they operate. Much of the coral and fish harvested from natural reefs around the world operate in a wild-wild west bubble, at least at the point of collection, with little to no accountability for how many fish are collected, what species, and who collected them.
The new licensing program for net-fishing villagers to collect reef fish for aquarium will be piloted first in the Santa Ana region of the Philippines, an untouched part of this country which has never been harvested from before. The unique eco-region of Santa Ana is little explored, and little known, but being the closest part of the Philippines to Japan we can expect a fairly good representation of at least some of the amazing tropical marine fish that only come from Japan.
This new fully trained, net-catching program and the official licensing it requires is an incredibly positive direction for the marine aquarium hobby. By being hands-on with the communities that are the majority stakeholders in these ecosystems, sustainable and accountable collection of marine ornamentals has the potential to be one of the biggest force for positive change, and conservation of the natural reef.
We commend RVS Fishworld and their associates including maritime police chief Col. Jun Bayongan, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Director Milagros Morales, and Cagayan Municipal Mayor Hon. Darwin A. Tobias, for this noble new direction for the marine aquarium trade, and we sincerely look forward to reporting on the progress of this program.