Mangrove protection after Typhoon Haiyan

by ZSL on

Mangroves are hugely important biodiversity hotspots that have been thriving in the Philippines until Typhoon Haiyan destroyed much of its coastlines including large areas of mangrove forest. We hear from ZSL’s conservationists working to protect and rehabilitate what's left.

Mangroves in the Philippines
Mangroves in the Philippines
Mangrove forests are among the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems. They store vast amounts of carbon, helping us fight climate change, whilst their sturdy structure protects the coastline from tropical storms and coastal erosion. They also sustain important fisheries and species.

They have always been a lucrative, rich and a vital lifeline for marine life and people living in the Philippines, one of the many countries where you can find mangroves. Typhoons are not uncommon here, and the deadly sweep of typhoon Haiyan in 2013 wiped out much of the coastline, devastating local communities and the wildlife on which it relies.

In efforts to help rebuild coastal communities and protect wildlife ZSL has been bringing locals to the forefront of the conservation strategy; working together to create new Mangrove Marine Protected Areas (MMPA) in the places worst hit by the natural disaster.

Billy Joe Redira and Francis Mari Remulta are two of ZSL’s Local Community Organisers in different parts of Bantayan Island, the largest municipality in the Philippines, where they have been working hard with local communities to establish a new MMPA. Here they share their experience with us.

Billy on a boat securing the Mangrove Marine Protection Area
Billy Joe Redira is a Local Community Organiser based on Bantayan Island
Bantayan Island is found on the Northern tip of Cebu in the Philippines. The coast is a major source of survival for most of the people living there. 

Its fishing, including mangrove fishing, is famous and a major source of income, as is farming. It is also naturally beautiful, known for its fine white sandy beaches with clear crystal-blue water.

However, in November 2013, catastrophe hit as super typhoon Haiyan struck the island, leaving almost every survivor with nothing but hope of recovery. Many lives were lost in the typhoon, which left homes for people and wildlife devastated.

Many species of mangrove were damaged and those that were dead and rotting became toxic, harming some of the remaining organisms living there.

Mangrove forest at low tide, Philippines
Mangrove forest at low tide in the Philippines
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) came to the island to help with disaster recovery. The relief helped almost all of the human survivors to get back on their feet. Yet few had taken initiative to rebuild and rehabilitate the devastated coastal habitats even though fishing, the major source of local livelihood, relied on them.

In 2014 ZSL was awarded funds for the MMPA through a Darwin Initiative  (UK Government) project; ‘Linking Community Resilience and Sustainable Coastal Protection in the Philippines.’ There are three main aims.

  • Increasing the resilience of coastal communities through livelihood diversification and community banking.
  • Enhance long-term effectiveness and sustainability of Marine Protected Areas through inclusion of mangroves and improved management practices.
  • Integrate MPA and mangrove management into local government long-term rehabilitation plans and to share experience and tools with other practitioners.

Importantly, the entire project has been established with community support; collaborating with local governments and researchers, training fisherfolk and consulting with local residents to plan, locate and fund the MMPA.

The mangrove Marine Protection Area
After agreeing terms Billy, Francis and local teams put the plans in to action
Communicating the importance of the MMPA and agreeing the space needed with local support has been a big but necessary challenge for Billy and Francis. With support of the ZSL Philippines team, they carried out biological and social surveys to understand the habitat and local resource use before presenting the ideas to the community for approval.

Francis said: “Even though an MPA existed before ZSL started the project it was still a big challenge to convince the local people to expand it to include the mangrove area, because most of the local community are dependent on the sea, particularly the mangrove habitat.” 

Billy said: “At first the community refused, arguing that the 108 hectare protected area was too big and that they were worried they might no longer be able to fish.”

But after explaining the science behind the plans they were able to convince them that this was not the case and of the long term importance of having the area protected.

In 2016 they established a Mangrove Marine Protected Area, in each of their communities; Kodia and Oboob, as well as formed two vital Community Managed Savings and Credit Associations, locally known as COMCA’s to provide access to finance services enabling people to save the money they earn from working on the MMPA and take out small loans to invest in small enterprise activities for the first time.

In a huge achievement for marine and human life the first mangrove protection area was approved in Billy’s area in January 2016 and both sites were complete by September.

Francis Mari Remulta (in grey) with the marine protection area team in Oboob, Bantayan
Francis Mari Remulta (in grey) with his team working on the marine protection area in Oboob, Bantayan
Old bottles and containers have been recycled into buoys in buffer zones that are laid out with boats using second hand pumps. New ropes were donated by the President and billboards alerting passers-by of the increased protection were also installed.

The local people involved in preparing the sinkers and buoys were able to earn a working salary.

Billy said: “They were extremely thorough and eager to do a good job; demonstrating their willingness to help. We and all of our project partners are very excited.”

ZSL employees preparing to place the MMPA markers
Locals worked with ZSL preparing the sinkers needed to identify the protected areas
He and Francis will continue to work with their communities to ensure proper management and enforcement of the MMPA and they are working to remove pressure from fishing and our marine ecosystems.

Francis is cautiously hopeful for the future and looking forward to seeing the impact of all the hard work.

He said: “I will not say that all my hard work was worthwhile until I can see that the MMPA is well implemented.” 

“It will be interesting to see the volume of fish caught and income of the fisherfolks increase because of the Marine Protected Area.”

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