TRANSCRIPT - Ferdinand Cruz
Cruz is a regional coordinator for the Destructive Fisheries
Reform Program, an outreach of the International Marinelife
Alliance in the Philippines and Indonesia.
How big is the problem of cyanide fishing here in the Philippines?
the Philippines there are four to six thousand cyanide users. Its
bigger in Indonesia because they have a bigger area and theyre
catching a lot of groupers and theyre number one in ornamental
fish. Its hard because when they come in, they do not bring
in the cyanide; they tie it in a reef area. If theyre using
it, they have a pre-arranged signal so that if any boat approaches,
they just drop the cyanide. So its very hard to catch.
How do you deal with corrupt local government officials?
very hard to deal with corrupt officials. We usually just back out
of the area when we have to deal with corrupt officials. And we
go to areas where the mayor is more the officials are more
sincere. And then we try to make it a model for the others to copy.
What do you think is the best way to stop cyanide fishing?
very hard but we have to just do training with the fishermen right
now because they need to feed their family. And then the resources
have been destroyed by commercial fishing and corrupt officials
and enforcement. So they need to be able to do training and go into
a holistic approach where each should have a solution to their problem.
Why do you think so many people in the Philippines and Indonesia
Indonesia they say that they do not know other alternatives then
using cyanide to catch fish, in terms of the products that they
need. Then the middle man that pays them a very low price. So they
have to catch more; thats why theyre using cyanide.
Is it still possible for fishermen to catch groupers and ornamentals
without using cyanide?
is a chance for them to get out of cyanide if they are properly
trained. And again they have to have that market link-up. Because
if the middle man pays them a very low price, the pressure for them
to catch more is there. So, they have to go back to cyanide.
Could you comment on how IMA (International Marine-life Alliance)
helps those fishermen you are working with to link up directly with
are looking for 100% net caught exporters, or those who are committed
to just ship out 100% net caught. So that on the buyer side they
will really feel its net caught and it doesnt die immediately
on them. So on the hook and line thing, they also are looking for
an outfit that would like to do 100% hook and line.
Do you think its a good idea for consumers who buy groupers
and ornamentals to seek out fish from suppliers that are caught
with hook and line or with nets?
very important that the buyers of live fish and net caught ornamentals
should seek out only net caught.
Have you seen restoration of coral reefs in areas where you trained
fishermen to catch without cyanide?
have seen the restoration coming in, but we need to really monitor
it and IMA has to really
it takes time because IMA has to monitor
and see to it that the habit of using cyanide is weaned out of the
fisherman. Because it becomes a habit for a fisherman.
You mentioned earlier that you penetrated Davao del Sur first, an
area rife with sea gypsies. Thats where you found the toughest
customers. Could you comment on that?
I went there, I went to different areas and they kept pointing me
to Davao and then to Santa Cruz area until we found the Bijaos and
they were known to be the leaders in illegal fishing there. So we
did the penetration there and we have been there for a duration.
Have there been times when lives of IMA staff members or even your
own life has been threatened by going into a community?
have not been threatened in these villages because basically fishermen
are looking for alternatives. But if they can see that the alternative
that is given to them can make them earn, theyre even the
ones who protect our staff now.
Many of the scientists we have spoken with believe the situation
is fatalistic in Indonesia and the Philippines, that theres
not a lot that can be done to stop cyanide fishing until the government
does something about it. How does that make you feel?
do not think its that fatalistic because in the village that
we have trained, the fishermen even notice that their seaweeds have
a good harvest right now, and the price is right. Much more if they
can have an export permit. Then they said theyre going to
be more successful because theyre not now using cyanide there.
So they even volunteered to accompany us to other islands there
to introduce the program because they believe in the program now.
Now here in the Philippines, its also the same; they have
the same outlook. But like the Bijaos and the other people that
we have trained in Mindano, they are very happy about the whole
thing and they have stopped using cyanide.
doesnt really matter because these people have not really
had their inter-relationship with the villagers and stayed there
and saw the problem
see how sometimes only the whole family
can hit only once a day or once every two days, like the Bijaos,
before we came in. So, once the alternative is given, more often
than not, they follow the kind of alternative we give.
What motivates you to keep on going despite the bleak picture?
love my work. I love the ocean, I love diving and Ive seen
re-growth in the corals, so there is hope. So, its just that
we have to work.
How do you see it working out?
should be a continuous, training of different areas and like in
Davao, where they now protect their resources because they get money
from it, it becomes a very good example. If the buyers would go
direct to these fisherman and pay them the right price then there
is no question about these fisherman protecting their resources.
Because they will just keep getting from that area that they have
been fishing on.
Its terrific that youre teaching these fishermen non-destructive
fishing methods. However if there are too many of them fishing couldnt
that still lead to over fishing?
the ornamental fish there is a control system. The market does not
get the juvenile because thats not it. Or the big ones not
the spawners because it does not also
It cannot be kept alive
in a aquarium. Now the fisherman
a prime example is in Davao,
after he earns 10 dollars he goes home. He does not fish anymore
until he runs out of money again. Thats the way a fisherman
is, and thats what is happening there.
As the population continues to grow and even though they may only
fish until they have $10, there are many, many more fishermen out
there. Could it still not put pressure on the resource and lead
to over fishing?
areas that we do training, it has to be very sustainable. We do
not introduce intervention in an area which is not sustainable.
That is the prerequisite of the training. Well, even here where
we dove where the reefs are destroyed, theres a lot of fish.
More of fish than food fish, of course.