As Secretary of State John Kerry implores world leaders to focus attention on the plight of the world’s oceans, a unique partnership on a remote island in the Philippines is demonstrating the power of public-private collaboration in preserving marine habitats.
Tawi-Tawi is a distant island in the Philippines archipelago, not far from Malaysia. The waters surrounding the island are pristine and rich with marine life. This rich natural resource is under increasing threat as illegal fishing and smuggling are on the rise due to the rapidly growing demand for fresh seafood across southeast Asia and beyond. “Dynamite and cyanide fishing are rampant,” says Tawi-Tawi’s governor. These illegal practices destroy delicate marine ecosystems, threatening the livelihoods of the island’s fishing communities.
Thanks to a new partnership between USAID/Philippines, mobile operator SMART, and the local government in Tawi-Tawi, that situation may be about to change. The 700-DALOY partnership is designed to provide community fisherfolk, enforcement agencies, and local governments with a new tool to report illegal fishing activity and expedite enforcement. SSG facilitated this partnership in support of the USAID ECOFISH project.
Through the partnership, SMART is creating an SMS-based platform that allows fisherfolk to report violations. Violations are captured in a database, processed and passed on immediately to local authorities, enabling a much more rapid and coordinated enforcement response. In addition, the data will allow the government to analyze violation patterns, strengthening prevention efforts. The ECOFISH project is working with fisherfolk, LGUs, and SMART to deploy the system in Tawi-Tawi. 700-DALOY will empower fishing communities to be partners with local governments and enforcement agencies in preventing the destruction of marine habitat. If this initial pilot is successful, the plan is to roll out the system nationwide in 2015.
According to ECOFISH project Chief of Party Gerry Sylvestre, “You can have all the good ordinance, all the good programs, but if we cannot implement them, then we are in trouble.”
By leveraging a proven technology, such as SMS, with a concerted effort to build the capacity of local stakeholders, the 700-DALOY partnership is providing the people of Tawi-Tawi with a powerful new mobile technology tool to strengthen coastal enforcement and preserve the island’s rich natural heritage.