Around the world, millions of women play often unheralded but vital roles in the management of natural resources. Take small-scale fisheries: 47 percent of the global fisheries workforce is comprised of women. Women are key players throughout the fisheries value chain from extraction through consumption, yet they’re excluded from much of the decision-making
due to longstanding cultural norms.
This demands change. With 45 percent of all Rare Fellows being women throughout its history, Rare is amplifying its focus on female empowerment in conservation. We’re proud to highlight three female leaders working with Rare — Marjurie Abella, Cherry Ravelo, and Cathy Demesa — for advancing sustainable fishing in their communities, and taking their conservation stories to the international stage throughout 2015.
Mission Blue II Voyage | Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands
Last fall, the TED Mission Blue II Voyage set out across 1,500 miles of the South Pacific, exploring an expanse of islands on the edge of coral reefs and lagoons. Making their way from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands aboard the National Geographic Orion, a group of leading voices in science, art, business, and conservation — including Mission Blue founder Dr. Sylvia Earle and writers Paul Greenberg and Dr. Carl Safina — came together to pool their insight on today’s big ocean issues and solutions needed to take them on.
Rare Fellow Marjurie “Marju” Abella, a shy, young woman from the coastal community of Ayungon, Philippines, rose to Mission Blue II’s TED Talk platform to speak to a global problem her community has worked to overcome: the steady decline of small-scale fisheries, a trend that’s putting fishing communities throughout the developing tropics at risk. “I want to spend my time here focusing on hope, hope that we can restore fisheries and the livelihoods of the people who depend on them,” said Marju, clear and calm, to fellow voyagers.
Marju became a Rare Fellow in 2012, starting a Rare Pride campaign to inspire the Ayungon community to take more impassioned ownership of its marine resources, and put a stop to overfishing and destructive fishing taking place in its near-shore fishery. She built up her campaign with a toolkit Rare helped her develop: a carefully designed slogan and cheerful fish mascot, and a series of campaign events including parades, mural painting, and sports tournaments, all revolving around changing social norms around fishing in Ayungon. While mobilizing support for marine protection, Marju worked with fishers to strengthen the community’s fishing management committee and boost local enforcement protecting Ayungon’s marine sanctuary.
I found my voice as a leader. My community found its voice, and now my country is finding its way, too."
Marju Abella, Rare Fellow
Marju recounted the results she saw over the next three years at Mission Blue II: Through 2015, coral cover increased and fish stocks rebounded by nearly a full metric ton. More than 95 percent of local fishers expressed belief that no one should fish in the community’s marine sanctuaries. Over those three years, Marju also came into her own as a local leader, gradually shaking the nerves that used to overwhelm her with every public speech and rallying her community to part from harmful habits in its waters. “I found my voice as a leader,” said Marju. “My community found its voice, and now my country is finding its way, too. We are transforming the Philippines and serving as a result model for the rest of the world.”
“Our Ocean” Conference | Valparaíso, Chile
At “Our Ocean,” Cherry Ravelo-Salazar spoke on the challenge of ramping up sustainable fishing practices — a key focus issue at the conference — and Fish Forever’s community-based approach to changing small-scale fishing practices in the developing tropics, where millions living in coastal communities depend on small-scale fisheries for food and jobs.
In the fall of 2015, Cantilan became one of two communities in the Philippines to approve the country’s first-ever TURF+Reserves.
Following her 2010 Pride campaign to halt destructive fishing in the marine sanctuaries of Cantilan’s Ayoke Island, Cherry collaborated with Fish Forever to bring its sustainable fishing solution to her wider Cantilan community. Cherry and Fish Forever worked closely with the community to design and implement its own TURF+Reserve. In the fall of 2015, Cantilan became one of two communities in the Philippines to approve the country’s first-ever TURF+Reserves — a pivotal Fish Forever moment that Cherry was able to announce before a global audience at “Our Ocean.” The approved TURF+Reserves mark the approach’s turn from concept to reality in the Philippines, putting a model in place that communities across the coast can adopt to turn their near-shore fisheries around.
21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention of Climate Change (COP21) | Paris, France
The Agreement also recognizes a need for adaptation and resilience-building measures that prepare communities for climate change impacts already in motion. At COP21’s civil society space and before delegates in the conference’s Blue Zone, Rare Fellow Cathy Demesa spoke on the importance of building climate resilience in communities of the developing tropics. Other key Blue Zone speakers included entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg. Addressing an audience of leaders including French Ambassador for the Environment Xavier Sticker and Neric Acosta, the Philippines’ Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection, Cathy highlighted the impact of enabling communities to better manage their natural resources as they face oncoming effects of climate change.
Cathy grew up in the Philippines, a country hit by an average of about eight or nine tropical cyclones a year. As she prepared to enter university in the fall of 1995, Supertyphoon Angela hit, resulting in 882 fatalities and hemorrhaging 9.3 billion Philippine pesos in damages. At home, Cathy’s father lost his crops to the storm. “In the wake of the storm’s destruction, we had close to nothing,” said Cathy. Then studying to be a doctor, she took a turn toward ecology, determined to find solutions for climate-vulnerable communities.
At COP21, Cathy discussed her work with Fish Forever to help these communities adapt. In her coastal community of Tinambac, Cathy has mobilized support for the sustainable, managed fishing approach at the core of Fish Forever: TURF+Reserves. Utilizing the exclusive fishing rights and marine reserves that make up TURF+Reserves, coastal communities can secure smallscale fishing livelihoods while building resilience to climate change. For instance, Cathy pointed to potential for strengthening marine ecosystems like mangroves and coral reefs: TURF+Reserves work to empower fishers to stop overfishing and destructive fishing, allowing these ecosystems to bounce back and better carry out their natural role of breaking storm impact.
TURF+Reserves work to empower fishers to stop overfishing and destructive fishing, allowing these ecosystems to bounce back and better carry out their natural role of breaking storm impact.
Cathy and Fish Forever’s efforts are gaining traction. Last fall, Tinambac joined Cantilan in approving the Philippines’ first-ever TURF+Reserves. As more than 190 countries move forward in a commitment to act on climate, Rare is working to elevate promising nature-based solutions like TURF+Reserves as major components of climate action in the developing world.