Cherry Ravelo-Salazar and the Isla Ayoke Fishers
In early October, Rare Fellow Cherry Ravelo-Salazar of Cantilan, Philippines, joined more than 500 participants convening on global ocean conservation at the second “Our Ocean” Conference, hosted by Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz and Secretary John Kerry in Valparaiso, Chile.
Secretary Kerry started the “Our Ocean” Conference, now in its second year, to assemble people from NGOs, academia, research, industry and other institutions to talk through major challenges facing the ocean worldwide. Participants discussed ways we can globally create sustainable fisheries, mitigate marine pollution, and understand and respond to a shifting climate.
To address the challenge of sustainable fishing—one of the conference’s key focus issues—Cherry Ravelo-Salazar fixed her talk on the power and point of effecting change in fishing behavior at the community level. On the “Our Ocean” stage, Cherry told the story of how her Pride campaign and the Fish Forever initiative successfully mobilized a small Filipino fishing community to adopt more sustainable local fishing and fisheries management practices.
Cherry’s story centers on Ayoke Island, a community of about a hundred families in the municipality of Cantilan, Philippines. It’s a tiny, postcard-pretty island lined with palm trees gently bent toward the shore and waters packed with rich biodiversity. There, as in many coastal communities of the Philippines, fishers who faced declining stocks resorted to illegal and destructive practices in years past, intruding into the no-take zone of the island’s marine protected area (MPA) and fishing with dynamite and banned nets.
Cherry, working with the local government as a fisheries technologist, teamed up with Rare in 2010 to inspire fishers and the wider community to take pride in their local marine environment and the natural resources it holds. “The task was to convince the fishers and the community that the MPA was crucial to their fishing, and therefore, their livelihood and the future of their families,” Cherry recounted at “Our Ocean.”
Rare Pride campaigns like Cherry’s borrow marketing strategy more commonly used to sell soda or sneakers than motivate conservation—using billboards, radio spots, vivid artwork, and other outlets to infuse nature into the local identity—and apply them to inspire the community to collectively adopt more sustainable behaviors. The Ayoke Island Pride campaign produced clear results: Community members voiced a different perspective toward the MPA and enforcing it, and fish biomass within the MPA increased steadily from 2011 to 2013.
Cherry’s story is not only one of igniting change, but sustaining it. Following the success of her Pride campaign, Cherry began work with Fish Forever in Cantilan, aiming to implement a second management element alongside marine reserves: exclusive access areas designated for local fishers (providing further incentive for area fishers of Ayoke Island and the rest of Cantilan to enforce the MPA).
Fish Forever is a global initiative of Rare, EDF and UCSB. In the Philippines, Fish Forever is the nearshore fisheries component of Bloomberg Philanthropies' Vibrant Oceans Initiative, a partnership to simultaneously reform nearshore and industrial fishing management. The Fish Forever and Vibrant Oceans initiatives empower coastal communities like Cantilan to take up sustainable fishing, by way of an innovative and scientifically backed approach called TURF+Reserves. TURF+Reserves combine the best of two known management approaches—exclusive fishing access areas and marine reserves—to secure fishing-dependent livelihoods and bolster conservation simultaneously.
It will take time for the fisheries to recover, but I think the Cantilan fishers now feel they are in charge of their future.”
Cherry Ravelo, Rare Fellow
Cherry joined Fish Forever’s Philippines team in enabling Cantilan to design and implement its own TURF+Reserve, playing an instrumental role in motivating fishers and other members of the community to embrace a TURF+Reserve design and provide input on its creation. This fall, Cantilan and another municipality, Tinambac, became the first communities in the Philippines to approve TURF+Reserves.
Watch Cherry’s full speech from “Our Oceans” to learn more about community change and Cantilan’s path toward sustainable fishing.
Video Credit: Bloomberg Philanthropies